Boys with autism spectrum disorder have distinct cortical folding patterns underpinning impaired self-regulation: a surface-based morphometry study

  • Hsing-Chang Ni
  • Hsiang-Yuan Lin
  • Yu-Chieh Chen
  • Wen-Yih Isaac Tseng
  • Susan Shur-Fen GauEmail author
Original Research


Although impaired self-regulation (dysregulation) in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) garnered increasing awareness, the neural mechanism of dysregulation in ASD are far from conclusive. To complement our previous voxel-based morphometry findings, we estimated the cortical thickness, surface area, and local gyrification index based on the surface-based morphometry from structural MRI images in 85 ASD and 65 typically developing control (TDC) boys, aged 7–17 years. Levels of dysregulation were measured by the sum of T-scores of Attention, Aggression, and Anxiety/Depression subscales on the Child Behavior Checklist. We found both ASD and TDC shared similar relationships between dysregulation and cortical folding patterns in the left superior and inferior temporal gyri and the left premotor cortex. Significant diagnosis by dysregulation interactions in cortical folding patterns were identified over the right middle frontal and right lateral orbitofrontal regions. The statistical significance of greater local gyrification index in ASD than TDC in several brain regions disappeared when the level of dysregulation was considered. The findings of shared and distinct neural correlates underpinning dysregulation between ASD and TDC may facilitate the development of targeted interventions in the future. The present work also demonstrates that inter-subject variations in self-regulation may explain some extents of ASD-associated brain morphometric differences, likely suggesting that dysregulation is one of the yardsticks for dissecting the heterogeneity of ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Structural MRI Dysregulation Surface-based morphometry Child behavior checklist 



This work was supported by grants from National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC97-3112-B-002-009, NSC98-3112-B-002-004, NSC 99-2627-B-002-015, NSC 100-2627-B-002-014, NSC 101-2627-B-002-002, NSC 101-2314-B-002-136-MY3), National Taiwan University (AIM for Top University Excellent Research Project: 102R892103), National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH101-S1910), National Health Research Institute (NHRI-EX104-10404PI, NHRI-EX105-10404PI, NHRI-EX106-10404PI), Taiwan and in part by the Department of Medical Imaging and 3 T MRI Lab in National Taiwan University Hospital. We are grateful for all participants and their parents for taking part in the study.

Funding information

This work was supported by grants from National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC97-3112-B-002-009, NSC98-3112-B-002-004, NSC 99-2627-B-002-015, NSC 100-2627-B-002-014, NSC 101-2627-B-002-002, NSC 101-2314-B-002-136-MY3), National Taiwan University (AIM for Top University Excellent Research Project: 102R892103), National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH101-S1910), National Health Research Institute (NHRI-EX104-10404PI, NHRI-EX105-10404PI, NHRI-EX106-10404PI), Taiwan and in part by the Department of Medical Imaging and 3 T MRI Lab in National Taiwan University Hospital.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The Research Ethics Committee at the NTUH approved our study before implementation (200903062R, 201201006RIB; number, NCT00916851, NCT01582256). Besides the ethical standards of the Committee at the NTUH on human experimentation, all procedures contributing to this work also comply with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.

Informed consent

The procedures and purpose of the study were explained face-to-face to the participants and their parents, who then provided written informed consent.

Supplementary material

11682_2019_199_MOESM1_ESM.docx (729 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 728 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hsing-Chang Ni
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hsiang-Yuan Lin
    • 3
  • Yu-Chieh Chen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Wen-Yih Isaac Tseng
    • 4
    • 5
  • Susan Shur-Fen Gau
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Graduate Institute of Clinical MedicineNational Taiwan University College of MedicineTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryChang Gung Memorial HospitalLinkouTaiwan
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryNational Taiwan University Hospital and College of MedicineTaipeiTaiwan
  4. 4.Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind SciencesNational Taiwan University College of MedicineTaipeiTaiwan
  5. 5.Institute of Medical Device and ImagingNational Taiwan University College of MedicineTaipeiTaiwan

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