Neuropsychologia. 2024 Jan 3:108786. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2024.108786. Online ahead of print.
Two parallel research tracks link the morphology of small and shallow indentations, or sulci, of the cerebral cortex with functional features of the cortex and human cognition, respectively. The first track identified a relationship between the mid-fusiform sulcus (MFS) in ventral temporal cortex (VTC) and cognition in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The second track identified a new sulcus, the inframarginal sulcus (IFRMS), that serves as a tripartite landmark within the posteromedial cortex (PMC). As VTC and PMC are structurally and functionally different in ASD, here, we integrated these two tracks and tested if there are morphological differences in VTC and PMC sulci in a sample of young (5-17 years old) male participants (50 participants with ASD and 50 neurotypical controls). Our approach replicates and extends recent findings in four ways. First, regarding replication, the standard deviation (STD) of MFS cortical thickness (CT) was increased in ASD. Second, MFS length was shorter in ASD. Third, the CT STD effect extended to other VTC and to PMC sulci. Fourth, additional morphological features of VTC sulci (depth, surface area, gray matter volume) and PMC sulci (mean CT) were decreased in ASD, including putative tertiary sulci, which emerge last in gestation and continue to develop after birth. To our knowledge, this study is the most extensive comparison of the sulcal landscape (including putative tertiary sulci) in multiple cortical expanses between individuals with ASD and NTs based on manually defined sulci at the level of individual hemispheres, providing novel targets for future studies of neurodevelopmental disorders more broadly.