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Early Head Growth in Infants at Risk of Autism: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study

Doi : 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.07.007 

Lonnie Zwaigenbaum a  , Gregory S. Young b, Wendy L. Stone c, Karen Dobkins d, Sally Ozonoff b, Jessica Brian e, Susan E. Bryson f, Leslie J. Carver d, Ted Hutman g, Jana M. Iverson h, Rebecca J. Landa i, Daniel Messinger j

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Although early brain overgrowth is frequently reported in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the relationship between ASD and head circumference (HC) is less clear, with inconsistent findings from longitudinal studies that include community controls. Our aim was to examine whether head growth in the first 3 years differed between children with ASD from a high-risk (HR) sample of infant siblings of children with ASD (by definition, multiplex), HR siblings not diagnosed with ASD, and low-risk (LR) controls.


Participants included 442 HR and 253 LR infants from 12 sites of the international Baby Siblings Research Consortium. Longitudinal HC data were obtained prospectively, supplemented by growth records. Random effects nonlinear growth models were used to compare HC in HR infants and LR infants. Additional comparisons were conducted with the HR group stratified by diagnostic status at age 3: ASD (n = 77), developmental delay (DD; n = 32), and typical development (TD; n = 333). Nonlinear growth models were also developed for height to assess general overgrowth associated with ASD.


There was no overall difference in head circumference growth over the first 3 years between HR and LR infants, although secondary analyses suggested possible increased total growth in HR infants, reflected by the model asymptote. Analyses stratifying the HR group by 3-year outcomes did not detect differences in head growth or height between HR infants who developed ASD and those who did not, nor between infants with ASD and LR controls.


Head growth was uninformative as an ASD risk marker within this HR cohort.

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Key Words : autism spectrum disorder, head circumference, high-risk design, longitudinal study, early detection


 This article is discussed in an editorial by Dr. Armin Raznahan on page xxx.
 Autism Speaks provided funding to establish the Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) database, used for the study analyses. Data collection at contributing sites were supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH: HD54979, J.I.; MH059630, R.L.; HD052804, K.D., L.C.; HD043292, W.S.; HD047417, D.M.; HD0057284, D.M, W.S; MH068398, S.O.; HD055784 and MH096961, T.H.), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (62924 and 102665, S.E.B., J.B., L.Z.), Autism Speaks (J.I., W.S.), Autism Speaks Canada (S.E.B., J.B., L.Z.), and NeuroDevNet (S.E.B., J.B., L.Z.).
 Dr. Gregory S. Young served as the statistical expert for this research.
 The authors thank Alycia Halliday, PhD, of Autism Speaks, for organizational support, and members of the BSRC for their input and guidance. The authors also thank the children and families who participated in this research.
 Disclosures: Dr. Zwaigenbaum is the site PI of a study sponsored by SynapDx (receives operating funds but no honoraria). Drs. Young, Stone, Dobkins, Ozonoff, Brian, Bryson, Carver, Hutman, Iverson, Landa, and Messinger report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

© 2014  American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Publié par Elsevier Masson SAS. Tous droits réservés.
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