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1.  The Impact of Early Amygdala Damage on Juvenile Rhesus Macaque Social Behavior 
Journal of cognitive neuroscience  2013;25(12):2124-2140.
The present experiments continue a longitudinal study of rhesus macaque social behavior following bilateral neonatal ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala or hippocampus, or sham operations. Juvenile animals (approximately 1.5- 2.5 years of age) were tested in four different social contexts—alone, while interacting with one familiar peer, while interacting with one unfamiliar peer, and in their permanent social groups. During infancy, the amygdala-lesioned animals displayed more interest in conspecifics (indexed by increased affiliative signaling) and paradoxically demonstrated more submission or fear (Bauman, Lavenex, Mason, Capitanio, & Amaral, 2004a, this journal). When these animals were assessed as juveniles, differences were less striking. Amygdala-lesioned animals generated fewer aggressive and affiliative signals (e.g., vocalizations, facial displays) and spent less time in social interactions with familiar peers. When animals were observed alone or with an unfamiliar peer, amygdala-lesioned, compared with other subjects, spent more time being inactive and physically explored the environment less. Despite the subtle, lesion-based differences in the frequency and duration of specific social behaviors, there were lesion-based differences in the organization of behavior such that lesion groups could be identified based on the patterning of social behaviors in a discriminant function analysis. The findings indicate that, although overall frequencies of many of the observed behaviors do not differ between groups, the general patterning of social behavior may distinguish the amygdala-lesioned animals.
PMCID: PMC4330965  PMID: 24047387
amygdala; social behavior; nonhuman primate; Macaca mulatta; Rhesus macaque
2.  Early brain enlargement and elevated extra-axial fluid in infants who develop autism spectrum disorder 
Brain  2013;136(9):2825-2835.
Prospective studies of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder have provided important clues about the early behavioural symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, however, is not currently made until at least 18 months of age. There is substantially less research on potential brain-based differences in the period between 6 and 12 months of age. Our objective in the current study was to use magnetic resonance imaging to identify any consistently observable brain anomalies in 6–9 month old infants who would later develop autism spectrum disorder. We conducted a prospective infant sibling study with longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging scans at three time points (6–9, 12–15, and 18–24 months of age), in conjunction with intensive behavioural assessments. Fifty-five infants (33 ‘high-risk’ infants having an older sibling with autism spectrum disorder and 22 ‘low-risk’ infants having no relatives with autism spectrum disorder) were imaged at 6–9 months; 43 of these (27 high-risk and 16 low-risk) were imaged at 12–15 months; and 42 (26 high-risk and 16 low-risk) were imaged again at 18–24 months. Infants were classified as meeting criteria for autism spectrum disorder, other developmental delays, or typical development at 24 months or later (mean age at outcome: 32.5 months). Compared with the other two groups, infants who developed autism spectrum disorder (n = 10) had significantly greater extra-axial fluid at 6–9 months, which persisted and remained elevated at 12–15 and 18–24 months. Extra-axial fluid is characterized by excessive cerebrospinal fluid in the subarachnoid space, particularly over the frontal lobes. The amount of extra-axial fluid detected as early as 6 months was predictive of more severe autism spectrum disorder symptoms at the time of outcome. Infants who developed autism spectrum disorder also had significantly larger total cerebral volumes at both 12–15 and 18–24 months of age. This is the first magnetic resonance imaging study to prospectively evaluate brain growth trajectories from infancy in children who develop autism spectrum disorder. The presence of excessive extra-axial fluid detected as early as 6 months and the lack of resolution by 24 months is a hitherto unreported brain anomaly in infants who later develop autism spectrum disorder. This is also the first magnetic resonance imaging evidence of brain enlargement in autism before age 2. These findings raise the potential for the use of structural magnetic resonance imaging to aid in the early detection of children at risk for autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders.
PMCID: PMC3754460  PMID: 23838695
autism; magnetic resonance imaging; infant brain development; cerebrospinal fluid; external hydrocephalus
3.  Neonatal Amygdala Lesions Alter Responsiveness to Objects in Juvenile Macaques 
Neuroscience  2011;178:123-132.
The amygdala is widely recognized to play a central role in emotional processing. In nonhuman primates, the amygdala appears to be critical for generating appropriate behavioral responses in emotionally salient contexts. One common finding is that macaque monkeys that receive amygdala lesions as adults are behaviorally uninhibited in the presence of potentially dangerous objects. While control animals avoid these objects, amygdala-lesioned animals readily interact with them. Despite a large literature documenting the role of the amygdala in emotional processing in adult rhesus macaques, little research has assessed the role of the amygdala across the macaque neurodevelopmental trajectory. We assessed the behavioral responses of three-year-old (juvenile) rhesus macaques that received bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala or hippocampus at two weeks of age. Animals were presented with salient objects known to produce robust fear-related responses in macaques (e.g., snakes and reptile-like objects), mammal-like objects that included animal-like features (e.g., eyes and mouths) but not reptile-like features (e.g., scales), and non-animal objects. The visual complexity of objects was scaled to vary the objects' salience. In contrast to control and hippocampus-lesioned animals, amygdale-lesioned animals were uninhibited in the presence of potentially dangerous objects. They readily retrieved food rewards placed near these objects and physically explored the objects. Furthermore, while control and hippocampus-lesioned animals differentiated between levels of object complexity, amygdala-lesioned animals did not. Taken together, these findings suggest that early damage to the amygdala, like damage during adulthood, permanently compromises emotional processing.
PMCID: PMC3962772  PMID: 21215794
amygdala; hippocampus; responsiveness; emotion; nonhuman primate; Macaca mulatta; Rhesus macaque
4.  Context–Specific Social Behavior is Altered by Orbitofrontal Cortex Lesions in Adult Rhesus Macaques 
Neuroscience  2011;179:80-93.
Although the orbitofrontal cortex has been implicated in important aspects of social behavior, few studies have evaluated semi-naturalistic social behavior in nonhuman primates after discrete lesions of this cortical area. In the present report, we evaluated the behavior of adult rhesus monkeys during dyadic social interactions with novel animals following discrete lesions of the orbitofrontal cortex. In a constrained condition, in which animals could engage in only restricted social behaviors, there were no significant differences in social behavior between the lesion group and the sham-operated control group. When the experimental animals could freely interact with partner animals, however, lesioned animals differed from control animals in terms of social interest and fear-related behaviors. These alterations were contingent on the partner with which they interacted. The lesioned animals, when compared to the control animals, had a significantly greater propensity to approach some but not all of their social partners. They also grimaced more towards the partner animal that they did not approach. Behavioral alterations were more apparent during the initial interactions between animals. We discuss these findings in relation to the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in context dependent modulation of social behavior.
PMCID: PMC3302924  PMID: 21256192
macaque; behavioral regulation; social behavior; frontal lobe
5.  The promise and the pitfalls of autism research: an introductory note for new autism researchers 
Brain Research  2010;1380:3-9.
PMCID: PMC3307796  PMID: 21129367
6.  Metabolomics as a Tool for Discovery of Biomarkers of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Blood Plasma of Children 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112445.
The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the earliest age possible is important for initiating optimally effective intervention. In the United States the average age of diagnosis is 4 years. Identifying metabolic biomarker signatures of ASD from blood samples offers an opportunity for development of diagnostic tests for detection of ASD at an early age.
To discover metabolic features present in plasma samples that can discriminate children with ASD from typically developing (TD) children. The ultimate goal is to identify and develop blood-based ASD biomarkers that can be validated in larger clinical trials and deployed to guide individualized therapy and treatment.
Blood plasma was obtained from children aged 4 to 6, 52 with ASD and 30 age-matched TD children. Samples were analyzed using 5 mass spectrometry-based methods designed to orthogonally measure a broad range of metabolites. Univariate, multivariate and machine learning methods were used to develop models to rank the importance of features that could distinguish ASD from TD.
A set of 179 statistically significant features resulting from univariate analysis were used for multivariate modeling. Subsets of these features properly classified the ASD and TD samples in the 61-sample training set with average accuracies of 84% and 86%, and with a maximum accuracy of 81% in an independent 21-sample validation set.
This analysis of blood plasma metabolites resulted in the discovery of biomarkers that may be valuable in the diagnosis of young children with ASD. The results will form the basis for additional discovery and validation research for 1) determining biomarkers to develop diagnostic tests to detect ASD earlier and improve patient outcomes, 2) gaining new insight into the biochemical mechanisms of various subtypes of ASD 3) identifying biomolecular targets for new modes of therapy, and 4) providing the basis for individualized treatment recommendations.
PMCID: PMC4224480  PMID: 25380056
7.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Shared Components of Reading Disability and Language Impairment 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2013;12(8):792-801.
Written and verbal language are neurobehavioral traits vital to the development of communication skills. Unfortunately, disorders involving these traits—specifically reading disability (RD) and language impairment (LI)—are common and prevent affected individuals from developing adequate communication skills, leaving them at risk for adverse academic, socioeconomic, and psychiatric outcomes. Both RD and LI are complex traits that frequently co-occur, leading us to hypothesize that these disorders share genetic etiologies. To test this, we performed a genome wide association study on individuals affected with both RD and LI in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The strongest associations were seen with markers in ZNF385D (OR=1.81, p=5.45 × 10−7) and COL4A2 (OR=1.71, p=7.59×10−7). Markers within NDST4 showed the strongest associations with LI individually (OR=1.827, p=1.40×10−7). We replicated association of ZNF385D using receptive vocabulary measures in the Pediatric Imaging Neurocognitive Genetics study (p=0.00245). We then used diffusion tensor imaging fiber tract volume data on 16 fiber tracts to examine the implications of replicated markers. ZNF385D was a predictor of overall fiber tract volumes in both hemispheres, as well as global brain volume. Here, we present evidence for ZNF385D as a candidate gene for RD and LI. The implication of transcription factor ZNF385D in RD and LI underscores the importance of transcriptional regulation in the development of higher order neurocognitive traits. Further study is necessary to discern target genes of ZNF385D and how it functions within neural development of fluent language.
PMCID: PMC3904347  PMID: 24024963
ALSPAC; Language Impairment; Reading Disability; Dyslexia GWAS; ZNF385D; PING
8.  Stereological Study of Amygdala Glial Populations in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110356.
The amygdala undergoes aberrant development in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We previously found that there are reduced neuron numbers in the adult postmortem amygdala from individuals with ASD compared to typically developing controls. The current study is a comprehensive stereological examination of four non-neuronal cell populations: microglia, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and endothelial cells, in the same brains studied previously. We provide a detailed neuroanatomical protocol for defining each cell type that may be applied to other studies of the amygdala in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. We then assess whether cell numbers and average volumes differ between ASD and typically developing brains. We hypothesized that a reduction in neuron numbers in ASD might relate to altered immune function and/or aberrant microglial activation, as indicated by increased microglial number and cell body volume. Overall, average non-neuronal cell numbers and volumes did not differ between ASD and typically developing brains. However, there was evident heterogeneity within the ASD cohort. Two of the eight ASD brains displayed strong microglial activation. Contrary to our original hypothesis, there was a trend toward a positive correlation between neuronal and microglial numbers in both ASD and control cases. There were fewer oligodendrocytes in the amygdala of adult individuals with ASD ages 20 and older compared to typically developing controls. This finding may provide a possible sign of altered connectivity or impaired neuronal communication that may change across the lifespan in ASD.
PMCID: PMC4201518  PMID: 25330013
9.  Increased Rate of Amygdala Growth in Children Aged 2 to 4 Years With Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Archives of general psychiatry  2012;69(1):53-61.
Precocious amygdala enlargement is commonly observed in young children with autism. However, the age at which abnormal amygdala enlargement begins and the relative growth trajectories of the amygdala and total brain remain unclear.
To determine whether the rate of amygdala growth is abnormal and disproportionate to total brain growth in very young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Longitudinal structural magnetic resonance imaging study.
Neuroimaging and diagnostic assessments were performed at an academic medical center. Participants were recruited from the community.
Baseline scans were acquired in 132 boys (85 with ASD and 47 control subjects with typical development [TD]; mean age, 37 months). Longitudinal magnetic resonance images were acquired in 70 participants (45 with ASD and 25 TD controls) 1 year later.
Main Outcome Measure
Amygdala volumes and total cerebral volumes (TCVs) were evaluated at both time points, and 1-year growth rates were calculated.
The amygdala was larger in children with ASD at both time points, but the magnitude of enlargement was greater at time 2. The TCV was also enlarged in the children with ASD by the same magnitude at both time points. When we controlled for TCV, amygdala enlargement remained significant at both time points. The rate of amygdala growth during this 1-year interval was faster in children with ASD than in TD controls. The rate of TCV growth did not differ between groups. Post hoc exploratory analyses revealed 3 patterns of amygdala and TCV growth rates in the ASD group.
Disproportionate amygdala enlargement is present by 37 months of age in ASD. The amygdala continues to grow at an increased rate, but substantial heterogeneity exists in amygdala and TCV growth patterns. Future studies aimed at clinical characterization of different growth patterns could have implications for choice and outcomes of treatment and behavioral therapy.
PMCID: PMC3632313  PMID: 22213789
10.  Postnatal Development of the Amygdala: A Stereological Study in Macaque Monkeys 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(9):1965-1984.
Abnormal development of the amygdala has been linked to several neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism. However, the postnatal development of the amygdala is not easily explored at the cellular level in humans. Here we performed a stereological analysis of the macaque monkey amygdala in order to characterize the cellular changes underlying its normal structural development in primates. The lateral, basal, and accessory basal nuclei exhibited the same developmental pattern, with a large increase in volume between birth and 3 months of age, followed by slower growth continuing beyond 1 year of age. In contrast, the medial nucleus was near adult size at birth. At birth, the volume of the central nucleus was half of the adult value; this nucleus exhibited significant growth even after 1 year of age. Neither neuronal soma size, nor neuron or astrocyte numbers changed during postnatal development. In contrast, oligodendrocyte numbers increased substantially, in parallel with an increase in amygdala volume, after 3 months of age. At birth, the paralaminar nucleus contained a large pool of immature neurons that gradually developed into mature neurons, leading to a late increase in the volume of this nucleus. Our findings revealed that distinct amygdala nuclei exhibit different developmental profiles and that the amygdala is not fully mature for some time postnatally. We identified different periods during which pathogenic factors might lead to the abnormal development of distinct amygdala circuits, which may contribute to different human neurodevelopmental disorders associated with alterations of amygdala structure and functions.
PMCID: PMC4043192  PMID: 22173686
amygdaloid complex; emotion; fear; social behavior; neurons; astrocytes; oligodendrocytes; neuropil; neurodevelopmental disorders; anxiety; autism; schizophrenia
11.  Postnatal Development of the Hippocampal Formation: A Stereological Study in Macaque Monkeys 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2011;519(6):1051-1070.
We performed a stereological analysis of neuron number, neuronal soma size, and volume of individual regions and layers of the macaque monkey hippocampal formation during early postnatal development. We found a protracted period of neuron addition in the dentate gyrus throughout the first postnatal year and a concomitant late maturation of the granule cell population and individual dentate gyrus layers that extended beyond the first year of life. Although the development of CA3 generally paralleled that of the dentate gyrus, the distal portion of CA3, which receives direct entorhinal cortex projections, matured earlier than the proximal portion of CA3. CA1 matured earlier than the dentate gyrus and CA3. Interestingly, CA1 stratum lacunosum-moleculare, in which direct entorhinal cortex projections terminate, matured earlier than CA1 strata oriens, pyramidale, and radiatum, in which the CA3 pro jections terminate. The subiculum developed earlier than the dentate gyrus, CA3, and CA1, but not CA2. However, similarly to CA1, the molecular layer of the subiculum, in which the entorhinal cortex projections terminate, was overall more mature in the first post-natal year compared with the stratum pyramidale in which most of the CA1 projections terminate. Unlike other hippocampal fields, volumetric measurements suggested regressive events in the structural maturation of presubicular neurons and circuits. Finally, areal and neuron soma size measurements revealed an early maturation of the parasubiculum. We discuss the functional implications of the differential development of distinct hippocampal circuits for the emergence and maturation of different types of “hippocampus-dependent” memory processes, including spatial and episodic memories.
PMCID: PMC4021602  PMID: 21344402
hippocampus; neuron number; primate; memory; infantile amnesia; neurodevelopmental disorder
12.  Maternal autoantibodies are associated with abnormal brain enlargement in a subgroup of children with autism spectrum disorder 
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is very heterogeneous and multiple subtypes and etiologies likely exist. The maternal immune system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of some forms of ASD. Previous studies have identified the presence of specific maternal IgG autoantibodies with reactivity to fetal brain proteins at 37 and 73KDa in up to 12% of mothers of children with ASD. The current study evaluates the presence of these autoantibodies in an independent cohort of mothers of 181 preschool-aged male children (131 ASD, 50 typically developing [TD] controls). We also investigated whether ASD children born to mothers with these autism-specific maternal IgG autoantibodies exhibit a distinct neural phenotype by evaluating total brain volume using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Of the 131 ASD children, 10 (7.6%) were born to mothers with the 37/73Kda IgG autoantibodies (ASD-IgG). The mothers of the remaining ASD children and all TD controls were negative for these paired autoantibodies. While both ASD groups exhibited abnormal brain enlargement that is commonly observed in this age range, the ASD-IgG group exhibited a more extreme 12.1% abnormal brain enlargement relative to the TD controls. In contrast, the remaining ASD children exhibited a smaller 4.4% abnormal brain enlargement relative to TD controls. Lobar and tissue type analyses revealed that the frontal lobe is selectively enlarged in the ASD-IgG group and that both gray and white matter are similarly affected. These results suggest that maternal autoantibodies associated with autism spectrum disorder may impact brain development leading to abnormal enlargement.
PMCID: PMC3641177  PMID: 23395715
Autism spectrum disorder; MRI; structural neuroimaging; maternal antibody; autoantibody
13.  The Entorhinal Cortex of the Monkey: IV. Topographical and Laminar Organization of Cortical Afferents 
The nonhuman primate entorhinal cortex is the primary interface for information flow between the neocortex and the hippocampal formation. Based on previous retrograde tracer studies, neocortical afferents to the macaque monkey entorhinal cortex originate largely in polysensory cortical association areas. However, the topographical and laminar distributions of cortical inputs to the entorhinal cortex have not yet been comprehensively described. The present study examines the regional and laminar termination of projections within the entorhinal cortex arising from different cortical areas. The study is based on a library of fifty-one 3H-amino acid injections that involve most of the afferent regions of the entorhinal cortex. The range of termination patterns was broad. Some areas, such as the medial portion of orbitofrontal area 13 and parahippocampal areas TF and TH, project widely within the entorhinal cortex. Other areas have a more focal and regionally selective termination. The lateral orbitofrontal, insular, anterior cingulate and perirhinal cortices, for example, project only to rostral levels of the entorhinal cortex. The upper bank of the superior temporal sulcus projects mainly to intermediate levels of the entorhinal cortex and the parietal and retrosplenial cortices project to caudal levels. The projections from some of these cortical regions preferentially terminate in the superficial layers (I–III) of the entorhinal cortex whereas others project more heavily to the deep layers (V–VI). Thus, some of the cortical inputs may be more influential on the cortically directed outputs of the hippocampal formation or on gating neocortical information flow into the other fields of the hippocampal formation rather than contributing to the perforant path inputs to other hippocampal fields.
PMCID: PMC3313676  PMID: 18551518
hippocampal formation; parahippocampal gyrus; topography; anterograde tracers; macaque monkey; memory; consolidation
14.  Selective changes in foraging behavior following bilateral neurotoxic amygdala lesions in rhesus monkeys 
Behavioral neuroscience  2010;124(6):761-772.
Across a variety of species, the amygdala appears to play a key role in the detection and avoidance of potential dangers (e.g., unfamiliar social partners, novel objects or contexts, potential predators, etc.). For many species, seeking out appropriate food sources and avoiding novel, distasteful or potentially tainted food is also a daily concern. Amygdala damage in nonhuman primates has been linked to increased willingness to select unfamiliar or unpalatable foods, as well as inedible items that intact animals typically reject. However, such findings have not always been consistent and have typically been observed in relatively restrictive, laboratory-based testing contexts. We evaluated the food choices of six adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with bilateral, neurotoxic amygdala lesions and six age- and experienced-matched unoperated control animals. Each animal was able to forage freely in a large enclosure stocked with five preferred and five nonpreferred foods that changed locations each day. While both groups quickly selected palatable foods, monkeys with amygdala lesions consistently selected unpalatable foods that the unoperated control animals generally avoided. Even after repeated presentations of the unpalatable foods, the amygdala-lesioned monkeys failed to change their initial pattern of diminished avoidance. These results are consistent with a general role for the amygdala in danger detection and prevention of harm in the presence of novel or noxious stimuli, regardless of whether such stimuli are conspecifics, predators, objects or foods.
PMCID: PMC3034241  PMID: 21133532
amygdala; avoidance; food preference; foraging; nonhuman primate; danger
15.  A Semi-Automated Pipeline for the Segmentation of Rhesus Macaque Hippocampus: Validation across a Wide Age Range 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89456.
This report outlines a neuroimaging pipeline that allows a robust, high-throughput, semi-automated, template-based protocol for segmenting the hippocampus in rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) monkeys ranging from 1 week to 260 weeks of age. The semiautomated component of this approach minimizes user effort while concurrently maximizing the benefit of human expertise by requiring as few as 10 landmarks to be placed on images of each hippocampus to guide registration. Any systematic errors in the normalization process are corrected using a machine-learning algorithm that has been trained by comparing manual and automated segmentations to identify systematic errors. These methods result in high spatial overlap and reliability when compared with the results of manual tracing protocols. They also dramatically reduce the time to acquire data, an important consideration in large-scale neuroradiological studies involving hundreds of MRI scans. Importantly, other than the initial generation of the unbiased template, this approach requires only modest neuroanatomical training. It has been validated for high-throughput studies of rhesus macaque hippocampal anatomy across a broad age range.
PMCID: PMC3933562  PMID: 24586791
16.  The NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery: Results from a Large Normative Developmental Sample (PING) 
Neuropsychology  2013;28(1):1-10.
The NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery (NTCB) was designed to provide a brief, efficient computerized test of key neuropsychological functions appropriate for use in children as young as 3 years of age. This report describes the performance of a large group of typically developing children and adolescents and examines the impact of age and sociocultural variables on test performance.
The NTCB was administered to a sample of 1020 typically developing males and females ranging in age from 3 to 20 years, diverse in terms of socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity, as part of the new publicly accessible Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics (PING) data resource, at 9 sites across the United States.
General additive models of nonlinear age-functions were estimated from age-differences in test performance on the 8 NTCB subtests while controlling for family SES and genetic ancestry factors (GAFs). Age accounted for the majority of the variance across all NTCB scores, with additional significant contributions of gender on some measures, and of SES and race/ethnicity (GAFs) on all. After adjusting for age and gender, SES and GAFs explained a substantial proportion of the remaining unexplained variance in Picture Vocabulary scores.
The results highlight the sensitivity to developmental effects and efficiency of this new computerized assessment battery for neurodevelopmental research. Limitations are observed in the form of some ceiling effects in older children, some floor effects, particularly on executive function tests in the youngest participants, and evidence for variable measurement sensitivity to cultural/socioeconomic factors.
PMCID: PMC3925365  PMID: 24219608
Computerized Assessment; Cognitive Development; Socioeconomic Status
17.  A comprehensive volumetric analysis of the cerebellum in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder 
Scientific Abstract
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and postmortem neuropathological studies have implicated the cerebellum in the pathophysiology of autism. Controversy remains, however, concerning the nature and the consistency of cerebellar alterations. MRI studies of the cross-sectional area of the vermis have found both decreases and no difference in autism groups. Volumetric analysis of the vermis, which is less prone to “plane of section artifacts” may provide a more reliable assessment of size differences but few such studies exist in the literature. Here we present the results of a volumetric analysis of the structure of the whole cerebellum and its components in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Structural MRI’s were acquired from 62 male participants (7.5 to 18.5 years-old) who met criteria for the following age-matched diagnostic groups: low functioning autism, high functioning autism, Asperger syndrome, and typically-developing children. When compared to controls, the midsagittal area of the vermis, or of subgroups of lobules, was not reduced in any of the autism groups. However, we did find that total vermis volume was decreased in the combined autism group. When examined separately, the vermis of only the high functioning autism group was significantly reduced compared to typically-developing controls. Neither IQ nor age predicted the size of the vermis within the autism groups. There were no differences in the volume of individual vermal lobules or cerebellar hemispheres. These findings are discussed in relation to the pathology of autism and to the fairly common alterations of vermal morphology in various neurodevelopmental disorders.
PMCID: PMC2999464  PMID: 19885834
Asperger; MRI; developmental delays; vermis; neurodevelopmental disorder
19.  Stereotypies and hyperactivity in rhesus monkeys exposed to IgG from mothers of children with autism☆ 
Brain, behavior, and immunity  2008;22(6):806-816.
Autism together with Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified form a spectrum of conditions (autism spectrum disorders or ASD) that is characterized by disturbances in social behavior, impaired communication and the presence of stereotyped behaviors or circumscribed interests. Recent estimates indicate a prevalence of ASD of 1 per 150 (Kuehn, 2007). The cause(s) of most cases of ASD are unknown but there is an emerging consensus that ASD have multiple etiologies. One proposed cause of ASD is exposure of the fetal brain to maternal autoantibodies during pregnancy [Dalton, P., Deacon, R., Blamire, A., Pike, M., McKinlay, I., Stein, J., Styles, P., Vincent, A., 2003. Maternal neuronal antibodies associated with autism and a language disorder. Ann. Neurol. 53, 533–537]. To provide evidence for this hypothesis, four rhesus monkeys were exposed prenatally to human IgG collected from mothers of multiple children diagnosed with ASD. Four control rhesus monkeys were exposed to human IgG collected from mothers of multiple typically developing children. Five additional monkeys were untreated controls. Monkeys were observed in a variety of behavioral paradigms involving unique social situations. Behaviors were scored by trained observers and overall activity was monitored with actimeters. Rhesus monkeys gestationally exposed to IgG class antibodies from mothers of children with ASD consistently demonstrated increased whole-body stereotypies across multiple testing paradigms. These monkeys were also hyperactive compared to controls. Treatment with IgG purified from mothers of typically developing children did not induce stereotypical or hyperactive behaviors. These findings support the potential for an autoimmune etiology in a subgroup of patients with neurodevelopmental disorders. This research raises the prospect of prenatal evaluation for neurodevelopmental risk factors and the potential for preventative therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3779644  PMID: 18262386
Repetitive; Primate; Macaque; Macaca mulatta; Activity; Asperger syndrome
20.  Evidence for differential alternative splicing in blood of young boys with autism spectrum disorders 
Molecular Autism  2013;4:30.
Since RNA expression differences have been reported in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for blood and brain, and differential alternative splicing (DAS) has been reported in ASD brains, we determined if there was DAS in blood mRNA of ASD subjects compared to typically developing (TD) controls, as well as in ASD subgroups related to cerebral volume.
RNA from blood was processed on whole genome exon arrays for 2-4–year-old ASD and TD boys. An ANCOVA with age and batch as covariates was used to predict DAS for ALL ASD (n=30), ASD with normal total cerebral volumes (NTCV), and ASD with large total cerebral volumes (LTCV) compared to TD controls (n=20).
A total of 53 genes were predicted to have DAS for ALL ASD versus TD, 169 genes for ASD_NTCV versus TD, 1 gene for ASD_LTCV versus TD, and 27 genes for ASD_LTCV versus ASD_NTCV. These differences were significant at P <0.05 after false discovery rate corrections for multiple comparisons (FDR <5% false positives). A number of the genes predicted to have DAS in ASD are known to regulate DAS (SFPQ, SRPK1, SRSF11, SRSF2IP, FUS, LSM14A). In addition, a number of genes with predicted DAS are involved in pathways implicated in previous ASD studies, such as ROS monocyte/macrophage, Natural Killer Cell, mTOR, and NGF signaling. The only pathways significant after multiple comparison corrections (FDR <0.05) were the Nrf2-mediated reactive oxygen species (ROS) oxidative response (superoxide dismutase 2, catalase, peroxiredoxin 1, PIK3C3, DNAJC17, microsomal glutathione S-transferase 3) and superoxide radical degradation (SOD2, CAT).
These data support differences in alternative splicing of mRNA in blood of ASD subjects compared to TD controls that differ related to head size. The findings are preliminary, need to be replicated in independent cohorts, and predicted alternative splicing differences need to be confirmed using direct analytical methods.
PMCID: PMC3846739  PMID: 24007566
Autism; ASD; RNA; Splicing; Head size; Gene expression
Biological psychiatry  2008;65(3):241-248.
In a previous study (1), we found that rhesus monkeys prepared with bilateral lesions of the amygdala failed to acquire fear-potentiated startle to a visual cue. However, a second group of monkeys, that received the lesion after training, successfully demonstrated fear-potentiated startle learned prior to the lesion.
In the current experiment, the eight monkeys used in the second part of the original study (1), four of whom had bilateral amygdala lesions and their four controls, were trained using an auditory cue and tested in the fear-potentiated startle paradigm. This test was performed to determine whether they could acquire fear-potentiated startle to a new cue.
Monkeys with essentially complete damage to the amygdala (based on histological analysis), who had retained and expressed fear-potentiated startle to a visual cue learned before the lesion (1), failed to acquire fear-potentiated startle to an auditory cue, when training occurred after the lesion.
The results suggest that while the non-human primate amygdala is essential for the initial acquisition of fear conditioning, it does not appear to be necessary for the memory and expression of conditioned fear. These findings are discussed in relation to a network of connections between the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex that may subserve different component processes of fear conditioning.
PMCID: PMC2745275  PMID: 18823878
fear-conditioning; fear; amygdaloid complex; emotional learning; memory
22.  Macaque Cardiac Physiology Is Sensitive to the Valence of Passively Viewed Sensory Stimuli 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71170.
Autonomic nervous system activity is an important component of affective experience. We demonstrate in the rhesus monkey that both the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system respond differentially to the affective valence of passively viewed video stimuli. We recorded cardiac impedance and an electrocardiogram while adult macaques watched a series of 300 30-second videos that varied in their affective content. We found that sympathetic activity (as measured by cardiac pre-ejection period) increased and parasympathetic activity (as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia) decreased as video content changes from positive to negative. These findings parallel the relationship between autonomic nervous system responsivity and valence of stimuli in humans. Given the relationship between human cardiac physiology and affective processing, these findings suggest that macaque cardiac physiology may be an index of affect in nonverbal animals.
PMCID: PMC3734104  PMID: 23940712
23.  Intrinsic Connections of the Macaque Monkey Hippocampal Formation: I. Dentate Gyrus 
We have carried out a detailed analysis of the intrinsic connectivity of the Macaca fascicularis monkey hippocampal formation. Here we report findings on the topographical organization of the major connections of the dentate gyrus. Localized anterograde tracer injections were made at various rostrocaudal levels of the dentate gyrus and we investigated the three-dimensional organization of the mossy fibers, the associational projection, and the local projections. The mossy fibers travel throughout the transverse extent of CA3 at the level of the cells of origin. Once the mossy fibers reach the distal portion of CA3, they change course and travel for 3–5 mm rostrally. The associational projection, originating from cells in the polymorphic layer, terminates in the inner third of the molecular layer. The associational projection, while modest at the level of origin, travels both rostrally and caudally from the injection site for as much as 80 percent of the rostrocaudal extent of the dentate gyrus. The caudally directed projection is typically more extensive and denser than the rostrally directed projection. Cells in the polymorphic layer originate local projections that terminate in the outer two-thirds of the molecular layer. These projections are densest at the level of the cells of origin, but also extend several millimeters rostrocaudally. Overall, the topographical organization of the intrinsic connections of the monkey dentate gyrus is largely similar to that of the rat. Such extensive longitudinal connections have the potential for integrating information across much of the rostrocaudal extent of the dentate gyrus.
PMCID: PMC2597032  PMID: 18844234
Hippocampus; Mossy Fibers; Associational Projection; CA3; Granule Cells; Mossy Cells
24.  Effects of neonatal amygdala or hippocampus lesions on resting brain metabolism in the macaque monkey: A microPET imaging study 
NeuroImage  2007;39(2):832-846.
Longitudinal analysis of animals with neonatal brain lesions enables the evaluation of behavioral changes during multiple stages of development. Interpretation of such changes, however, carries the caveat that permanent neural injury also yields morphological and neurochemical reorganization elsewhere in the brain that may lead either to functional compensation or to exacerbation of behavioral alterations. We have measured the long-term effects of selective neonatal brain damage on resting cerebral glucose metabolism in nonhuman primates. Sixteen rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) received neurotoxic lesions of either the amygdala (n = 8) or hippocampus (n = 8) when they were 2-weeks-old. Four years later, these animals, along with age- and experience-matched sham-operated control animals (n = 8), were studied with high-resolution positron emission tomography (microPET) and 2-deoxy-2[18F]fluoro-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) to detect areas of altered metabolism. The groups were compared using an anatomically-based region of interest analysis. Relative to controls, amygdala-lesioned animals displayed hypometabolism in three frontal lobe regions, as well as in the neostriatum and hippocampus. Hypermetabolism was also evident in the cerebellum of amygdala-lesioned animals. Hippocampal-lesioned animals only showed hypometabolism in the retrosplenial cortex. These results indicate that neonatal amygdala and hippocampus lesions induce very different patterns of long-lasting metabolic changes in distant brain regions. These observations raise the possibility that behavioral alterations in animals with neonatal lesions may be due to the intended damage, to consequent brain reorganization or to a combination of both factors.
PMCID: PMC2527971  PMID: 17964814
25.  Stereological Estimation of the Number of Neurons in the Human Amygdaloid Complex 
Pathological changes in neuronal density in the amygdaloid complex have been associated with various neurological disorders. However, due to variable shrinkage during tissue processing, the only way to unambiguously determine changes in neuron number is to estimate absolute counts, rather than neuronal density. As the first stage in evaluating potential neuropathology of the amygdala in autism, the total number of neurons was estimated in the control human amygdaloid complex using stereological sampling. The intact amygdaloid complex from one hemisphere of ten brains was frozen and sectioned. One 100 μm section was selected every 500 μm and stained by standard Nissl method. The entire amygdaloid complex was outlined then further partitioned into five reliably defined subdivisions: 1. lateral nucleus, 2. basal nucleus, 3. accessory basal nucleus, 4. central nucleus, 5. remaining nuclei (including anterior cortical, anterior amygdaloid area, periamygdaloid cortex, medial, posterior cortical, nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract, amygdalohippocampal area, and intercalated nuclei). The number of neurons was measured using an optical fractionator with Stereoinvestigator software. The mean number of neurons (×106) for each region was: lateral nucleus: 4.00, basal nucleus: 3.24, accessory basal nucleus: 1.28, central nucleus: 0.36, remaining nuclei: 3.33, total amygdaloid complex: 12.21. The stereological assessment of neuron number in the human amygdala provides an essential baseline for comparison of patient populations, such as autism, in which the amygdala may develop abnormally. To facilitate these types of analyses, this paper provides detailed anatomical description of the methods used to define subdivisions of the human amygdaloid complex.
PMCID: PMC2572713  PMID: 16175550
amygdala; neuropathology; stereology; autism; medial temporal lobe; anatomy

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