Original article| Volume 60, ISSUE 9, P942-950, November 01, 2006

Download started.


Caudate Nucleus Volume and Cognitive Performance: Are They Related in Childhood Psychopathology?

Published:September 04, 2006DOI:


      Impaired neuropsychological test performance, especially on tests of executive function and attention, is often seen in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Structures involved in fronto-striatal circuitry, such as the caudate nucleus, may support these cognitive abilities. However, few studies have examined caudate volumes specifically in children with ASD, or correlated caudate volumes to cognitive ability.


      Neuropsychological test scores and caudate volumes of children with ASD were compared to those of children with bipolar disorder (BD) and of typically developing (TD) children. The relationship between test performance and caudate volumes was analyzed.


      The ASD group displayed larger right and left caudate volumes, and modest executive deficits, compared to TD controls. While caudate volume inversely predicted performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test in all participants, it differentially predicted performance on measures of attention across the ASD, BD and TD groups.


      Larger caudate volumes were related to impaired problem solving. On a test of attention, larger left caudate volumes predicted increased impulsivity and more omission errors in the ASD group as compared to the TD group, however smaller volume predicted poorer discriminant responding as compared to the BD group.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Akshoomoff N.
        • Pierce K.
        • Courchesne E.
        The neurobiological basis of autism from a developmental perspective.
        Dev Psychopathol. 2002; 14: 613-634
        • Ambrosini P.J.
        • Dixon M.
        Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia, Childhood Version. (4th ed.). Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA1996
        • American Psychiatric Association
        Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (4th ed.). American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC1994
        • Aylward E.H.
        • Minshew N.J.
        • Field K.
        • Sparks B.F.
        • Singh N.
        Effects of age on brain volume and head circumference in autism.
        Neurology. 2002; 59: 175-183
        • Benton A.L.
        Test de praxie constructive tri-dimensionnelle: Forme alternative pour la clinique et la recherche.
        Revue de psychologie appliquee. 1973; 23: 1-5
        • Beyer J.L.
        • Krishnan K.R.
        Volumetric brain imaging findings in mood disorders.
        Bipolar Disord. 2002; 4: 89-104
        • Beyer J.L.
        • Kuchibhatla M.
        • Payne M.
        • Moo-Young M.
        • Cassidy F.
        • MacFall J.
        • et al.
        Caudate volume measurement in older adults with bipolar disorder.
        Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2004; 19: 109-114
        • Brambilla P.
        • Harenski K.
        • Nicoletti M.A.
        • Mallinger A.G.
        • Frank E.
        • Kupfer D.J.
        • et al.
        Anatomical MRI study of basal ganglia in bipolar disorder patients.
        Psychiatry Res: Neuroimag. 2001; 106: 65-80
        • Castillo M.
        • Kwock L.
        • Courvoisie H.
        • Hooper S.R.
        Proton MR spectroscopy in children with bipolar affective disorder: preliminary observations.
        Am J Neuroradiol. 2000; 21: 832-838
        • Caviness Jr., V.S.
        • Kennedy D.N.
        • Richelme C.
        • Rademacher J.
        • Filipek P.A.
        The human brain age 7–11 years: a volumetric analysis based on magnetic resonance images.
        Cereb Cortex. 1996; 6: 726-736
        • Chow T.W.
        • Cummings J.L.
        Frontal-subcortical circuits.
        in: Miller B.L. Cummings J.L. The Human Frontal Lobes: Functions and Disorders. Guilford Press, New York1999: 3-26
        • Cohen J.
        • Cohen P.
        • West S.G.
        • Aiken L.S.
        Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. 3rd ed. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ2003
        • Conners C.K.
        Conners’ Continuous Peiformance Test User’s Manual. Multi-Health Systems, Toronto1995
        • Courchesne E.
        Abnormal early brain development in autism.
        Mol Psychia. 2002; 7: S21-S23
        • Courchesne E.
        • Carper R.
        • Akshoomoff N.
        Evidence of brain overgrowth in the first year of life in autism.
        JAMA. 2003; 290: 337-344
        • Courchesne E.
        • Karns C.M.
        • Davis H.R.
        • Ziccardi R.
        • Carper R.A.
        • Tigue Z.D.
        • et al.
        Unusual brain growth patterns in early life in patients with autistic disorder: an MRI study.
        Neurology. 2001; 57: 245-254
        • Courchesne E.
        • Townsend J.
        • Akshoomoff N.A.
        • Saitoh O.
        • Yeung-Courchesne R.
        • Lincoln A.J.
        • et al.
        Impairment in shifting attention in autistic and cerebellar patients.
        Behav Neurosci. 1994; 108: 848-865
        • Durston S.
        • Hulshoff Pol H.E.
        • Casey B.J.
        • Giedd J.N.
        • Buitelaar J.K.
        • van Engeland H.
        Anatomical MRI of the developing human brain: what have we learned?.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001; 40: 1012-1020
        • Fuh J.-L.
        • Wang S.-J.
        Caudate hemorrhage: Clinical features, neuropsychological assessments and radiological findings.
        Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 1995; 97: 296-299
        • Gaffney G.R.
        • Kuperman S.
        • Tsai L.Y.
        • Minchin S.
        Forebrain structure in infantile autism.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1989; 28: 534-537
        • Ghaziuddin M.
        • Weidmer-Mikhail E.
        • Ghaziuddin N.
        Comorbidity of Asperger syndrome: a preliminary report.
        J Intellect Disabil Res. 1998; 42: 279-283
        • Gilchrist A.
        • Green J.
        • Cox A.
        • Burton D.
        • Rutter M.
        • Le Couteur A.
        Development and current functioning in adolescents with Asperger syndrome: a comparative study.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2001; 42: 227-240
        • Golden C.J.
        Stroop Color and Word Test: A Manual for Clinical and Experimental Uses. Stoelting Company, Chicago1978
        • Hardan A.Y.
        • Kilpatrick M.
        • Keshavan M.S.
        • Minshew N.J.
        Motor performance and anatomic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the basal ganglia in autism.
        J Child Neurol. 2003; 18: 317-324
        • Heaton R.K.
        • Chelune C.J.
        • Talley J.L.
        • Kay G.G.
        • Curtis G.
        Wisconsin Card Sorting Test Manual, Revised and Expanded. Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, FL1993
        • Hendren R.L.
        • De Backer I.
        • Pandina G.J.
        Review of neuroimaging studies of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders from the past 10 years.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2000; 39: 815-828
        • Herbert M.R.
        • Ziegler D.A.
        • Deutsch C.K.
        • O’Brien L.M.
        • Lange N.
        • Bakardjiev A.
        • et al.
        Dissociations of cerebral cortex, subcortical and cerebral white matter volumes in autistic boys.
        Brain. 2003; 126: 1182-1192
        • Hollander E.
        • Anagnostou E.
        • Chaplin W.
        • Esposito K.
        • Haznedar M.M.
        • Licalzi E.
        • et al.
        Striatal Volume on Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Repetitive Behaviors in Autism.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2005; 3: 3
        • Hollingshead A.B.
        Four factor index of social status. Yale University, New Haven, CT1975 (Unpublished manuscript)
        • Hughes C.
        • Russell J.
        • Robbins T.W.
        Evidence for executive dysfunction in autism.
        Neuropsychologia. 1994; 32: 477-492
        • Landry R.
        • Bryson S.E.
        Impaired disengagement of attention in young children with autism.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2004; 45: 1115-1122
        • Leekam S.
        • Libby S.
        • Wing L.
        • Gould J.
        • Gillberg C.
        Comparison of ICD-10 and Gillberg’s criteria for Asperger syndrome.
        Autism. 2000; 4: 11-28
        • Lombardi W.J.
        • Andreason P.J.
        • Sirocco K.Y.
        • Rio D.E.
        • Gross R.E.
        • Umhau J.C.
        • et al.
        Wisconsin Card Sorting Test performance following head injury: Dorsolateral fronto-striatal circuit activity predicts perseveration.
        J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1999; 21: 2-16
        • Lord C.
        • Rutter M.
        • Le Couteur A.
        Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: a revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders.
        J Autism Dev Disord. 1994; 24: 659-685
        • McAlonan G.M.
        • Daly E.
        • Kumari V.
        • Critchley H.D.
        • van Amelsvoort T.
        • Suckling J.
        • et al.
        Brain anatomy and sensorimotor gating in Asperger’s syndrome.
        Brain. 2002; 125: 1594-1606
        • Mendez M.F.
        • Adams N.L.
        • Lewandowski K.S.
        Neurobehavioral changes associated with caudate lesions.
        Neurology. 1989; 39: 349-354
        • Minshew N.J.
        • Meyer J.
        • Goldstein G.
        Abstract reasoning in autism: a dissociation between concept formation and concept identification.
        Neuropsychology. 2002; 16: 327-334
        • Ozonoff S.
        • Pennington B.F.
        • Rogers S.J.
        Executive function deficits in high-functioning autistic individuals: Relationship to theory of mind.
        J Child Psycho Psychia. 1991; 32: 1081-1105
        • Ozonoff S.
        • Rogers S.J.
        • Pennington B.F.
        Asperger’s syndrome: evidence of an empirical distinction from high-functioning autism.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1991; 32: 1107-1122
        • Piven J.
        • Arndt S.
        • Bailey J.
        • Andreasen N.
        Regional brain enlargement in autism: a magnetic resonance imaging study.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1996; 35: 530-536
        • Poldrack R.A.
        • Prabhakaran V.
        • Seger C.A.
        • Gabrieli J.D.E.
        Striatal activation during acquisition of a cognitive skill.
        Neuropsychology. 1999; 13: 564-574
        • Prior M.
        • Eisenmajer R.
        • Leekam S.
        • Wing L.
        • Gould J.
        • Ong B.
        • et al.
        Are there subgroups within the autistic spectrum?.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1998; 39: 893-902
        • Prior M.
        • Hoffmann W.
        Brief report: Neuropsychological testing of autistic children through an exploration with frontal lobe tests.
        J Autism Dev Disorders. 1990; 20: 581-590
        • Reitan R.M.
        • Wolfson D.
        The Halstead-Reitan neuropsychological battery: Theory and clinical implications. Neuropsychology Press, Tucson, AZ1985
        • Reitan R.M.
        • Wolfson D.
        Neuropsychological evaluation of young children. Neuropsychology Press, Tucson, AZ1990
        • Reitan R.M.
        • Wolfson D.
        The Halstead-Reitan NeuropsychologicalTest Battery: Theory and clinical interpretation. 2nd ed. Neuropsychology Press, Tucson, AZ1993
        • Reitan R.M.
        • Wolfson D.
        Use of the Progressive Figures Test in evaluating brain-damaged children, children with academic problems, and normal controls.
        Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2004; 19: 305-312
        • Robb R.A.
        The biomedical imaging resource at Mayo Clinic.
        IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2001; 20: 854-867
        • Roberts N.
        • Puddephat M.J.
        • McNulty V.
        The benefit of stereology for quantitative radiology.
        Br J Radiol. 2000; 73: 679-697
        • Schatz A.M.
        • Weimer A.K.
        • Trauner D.A.
        Brief report: Attention differences in Asperger syndrome.
        J Autism Dev Disorders. 2002; 32: 333-336
        • Schmidtke K.
        • Manner H.
        • Kaufmann R.
        • Schmolck H.
        Cognitive procedural learning in patients with fronto-striatal lesions.
        Learn Mem. 2002; 9: 419-429
        • Sears L.L.
        • Finn P.R.
        • Steinmetz J.E.
        Abnormal classical eye-blink conditioning in autism.
        J Autism Dev Disorders. 1994; 24: 737-751
        • Sears L.L.
        • Vest C.
        • Mohamed S.
        • Bailey J.
        • Ranson B.J.
        • Piven J.
        An MRI study of the basal ganglia in autism.
        Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1999; 23: 613-624
        • Shear P.K.
        • DelBello M.P.
        • Lee Rosenberg H.
        • Strakowski S.M.
        Parental reports of executive dysfunction in adolescents with bipolar disorder.
        Child Neuropsychology. 2002; 8: 285-295
        • Sparks B.F.
        • Friedman S.D.
        • Shaw D.W.
        • Aylward E.H.
        • Echelard D.
        • Artru A.A.
        • et al.
        Brain structural abnormalities in young children with autism spectrum disorder.
        Neurol. 2002; 59: 184-192
        • Szatmari P.
        • Bartolucci G.
        • Bremner R.
        Asperger’s syndrome and autism: comparison of early history and outcome.
        Dev Med Child Neurol. 1989; 31: 709-720
        • Szatmari P.
        • Tuff L.
        • Finlayson M.A.
        • Bartolucci G.
        Asperger’s syndrome and autism: neurocognitive aspects.
        J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1990; 29: 130-136
        • Thompson P.M.
        • Giedd J.N.
        • Woods R.P.
        • MacDonald D.
        • Evans A.C.
        • Toga A.W.
        Growth patterns in the developing brain detected by using continuum mechanical tensor maps.
        Nature. 2000; 404: 190-193
        • Volkow N.D.
        • Gur R.C.
        • Wang G.J.
        • Fowler J.S.
        • Moberg P.J.
        • Ding Y.S.
        • et al.
        Association between decline in brain dopamine activity with age and cognitive and motor impairment in healthy individuals.
        Am J Psychiatry. 1998; 155: 344-349
        • Wechsler D.
        Manual for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III). 3rd ed. Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TX1991
        • West S.A.
        • McElroy S.L.
        • Strakowski S.M.
        • Keck Jr., P.E.
        • McConville B.J.
        Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adolescent mania.
        Am J Psychiatry. 1995; 152: 271-273
        • Wozniak J.
        • Biederman J.
        • Kiely K.
        • Ablon J.
        • et al.
        Mania-like symptoms suggestive of childhood-onset bipolar disorder in clinically referred children.
        J Amer Acad Child Adolescent Psychia. 1995; 34: 867-876
        • Yoshida Y.
        • Uchiyama T.
        The clinical necessity for assessing Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) symptoms in children with high-functioning Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).
        Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004; 13: 307-314