Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a prevalent and fast-growing pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder worldwide. Despite the increasing prevalence of ASD and the breadth of research conducted on the disorder, a conclusive etiology has yet to be established and controversy still exists surrounding the anatomical abnormalities in ASD. In particular, structural asymmetries have seldom been investigated in ASD, especially in subcortical regions. Additionally, the majority of studies for identifying structural biomarkers associated with ASD have focused on small sample sizes. Therefore, the present study utilizes a large-scale, multi-site database to investigate asymmetries in the amygdala, hippocampus, and lateral ventricles, given the potential involvement of these regions in ASD. Contrary to prior work, we are not only computing volumetric asymmetries, but also shape asymmetries, using a new measure of asymmetry based on spectral shape descriptors. This measure represents the magnitude of the asymmetry and therefore captures both directional and undirectional asymmetry. The asymmetry analysis is conducted on 437 individuals with ASD and 511 healthy controls using T1-weighted MRI scans from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) database. Results reveal significant asymmetries in the hippocampus and the ventricles, but not in the amygdala, in individuals with ASD. We observe a significant increase in shape asymmetry in the hippocampus, as well as increased volumetric asymmetry in the lateral ventricles in individuals with ASD. Asymmetries in these regions have not previously been reported, likely due to the different characterization of neuroanatomical asymmetry and smaller sample sizes used in previous studies. Given that these results were demonstrated in a large cohort, such asymmetries may be worthy of consideration in the development of neurodiagnostic classification tools for ASD.
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