The purpose of this study was to assess the incidence of abnormal Virchow-Robin (VR) spaces in children and adolescents with an autistic disorder (AD). An increased incidence of enlarged VR spaces in children has been reported in several developmental disorders.
Sixteen children and adolescents (13 male, 3 female; mean age = 143.5 months; mean IQ = 95.1) with an AD, verified by use of standardized procedures (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Revised), received cranial magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Sixteen children and adolescents (13 male, 3 female; mean age = 160.7 months; mean IQ = 111.6) without AD, as determined using the same procedures, were scanned as a comparison group. The MR scans were performed using a 1.5-T scanner. Two T1-weighted spoiled GRASS sequences (0.7-mm coronal thin-slice, 0-mm gap; 1.5-mm sagittal, 0-mm gap) and a complementary T2-weighted fast spin echo sequence (1.5-mm, 0-mm gap) were obtained. A neuroradiologist and a neurobiologist without clinical information determined the incidence of normal, accentuated, and/or dilated VR spaces.
Seven of 16 subjects with AD (approximately 44%) had dilated VR spaces in the centrum semiovale. No grossly abnormal spaces were present in the control subjects.
Unusually large VR spaces are seen in at most 22% to 27% of MR scans in children with tension headaches and other psychiatric disorders, suggesting that the incidence of spaces of this type is greater in AD than in other abnormal populations. The origin and significance of this phenomenon remain unknown.