Study finds link between isolated fetal ventriculomegaly and autism traits at school age

In a recent publication in Nature Communications, researchers from King’s College London’s Centre for the Developing Brain have utilized MRI brain scans of children diagnosed with isolated fetal ventriculomegaly to investigate the presence of autism traits at primary school age and measure neurodevelopment.

The study consisted of two groups of children – one with a normal fetal brain MR assessment and another with an antenatal diagnosis of isolated ventriculomegaly. The participating children were scanned as fetuses and assessed at 2 years of age and primary school age using a range of developmental measures, including sustained attention, executive function, behavior, sensory processing, neurological functioning, IQ, co-ordination, and adaptive behaviors.

Fetal ventriculomegaly is the most prevalent antenatally-diagnosed brain abnormality and is identified when the lateral ventricles are larger than usual on antenatal ultrasound or MR imaging. The study’s results indicate a correlation between this common fetal brain anomaly and autism traits. This discovery may enhance counseling for families and aid in early identification, support, and intervention. Further research is necessary to confirm these initial findings within a larger population.

According to Dr. Vanessa Kyriakopoulou, a senior research associate in Neuroscience & Neuroimaging, while this approach may not provide a complete indication of future outcomes, improved prediction could have significant implications for long-term family support. Early identification would enable parents to receive counseling on potential future outcomes, and heightened awareness of the onset of autism traits in their child would result in earlier access to supporting programs.

Professor Mary Rutherford, who specializes in Perinatal Imaging & Health, believes that more long-term data combining high-quality brain imaging with developmental follow-up is required for children with antenatally-diagnosed isolated ventriculomegaly or other common fetal brain anomalies to enhance our knowledge of autism susceptibility.

Source: King’s College London

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