Background. Craniofacial anomalies and minor neurological dysfunction (MNDs) have been identified, in literature, as risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders. They represent physical indicators of embryonic development suggesting a possible contributory role of complications during early, even pre-conceptional, phases of ontogeny in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Limited research has been conducted about the co-occurrence of the two biomarkers in children with ASD. This study investigates the associative patterns of cranio-facial anomalies and MNDs in ASD children, and whether these neurodevelopmental markers correlate with intensity of ASD symptoms and overall functioning. Methods. Caucasian children with ASD (n = 33) were examined. Measures were based on five anthropometric cranio-facial indexes and a standardized and detailed neurological examination according to Touwen. Relationships between anthropometric z-scores, MNDs and participant characteristics (i.e., age, cognitive abilities, severity of autistic symptoms measured using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) checklist) were assessed. Results. With respect to specific MNDs, significant positive correlations were found between Cephalic Index and Sensory deficits (p-value < 0.001), which did not correlate with CARS score. Importantly, CARS score was positively linked with Intercanthal Index (p-value < 0.001), and negatively associated with posture and muscle tone (p-value = 0.027) and Facial Index (p-value = 0.004). Conclusion. Our data show a link between a specific facial phenotype and anomalies in motor responses, suggesting early brain dysmaturation involving subcortical structures in cerebro-craniofacial development of autistic children. This research supports the concept of a “social brain functional morphology” in autism spectrum disorders.
|Numero di pagine||12|
|Stato di pubblicazione||Published - 2020|
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