The assessment of autism risk and severity using prenatal ultrasound measures of the cerebellum
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The purpose of the current study is to contribute to the understanding of prenatal cerebellar pathology in autism. Reduction of Purkinje neurons is well reported in the cerebella of individual’s with autism. While there is evidence to suggest that this abnormality may be evident as early as prenatal development, no study to date has examined in the anataomical prenatal development of the cerebella in children later diagnosed with autism. The primary prediction being made is that a reduction of Purkinje neurons during prenatal development will present as reduced cerebellar size in the reports from mother’s prenatal ultrasound records. It is hypothesized that this reduction will be greater in children with an autism diagnosis compared to the records of children without an autism diagnosis. The secondary prediction will attempt to further support the link between aberrant cerebellar development and increased stereotyped behavior and repetitive interests. A retrospective analysis of prenatal ultrasound records and autism diagnostic information will test these hypotheses, predicting that records from children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will show reductions in transverse cerebellar diameter measurements when compared to TD peers, and that greater reductions will correlate with increased stereotypical and repetitive behaviors as measured by a standard diagnostic tool.