Anxiety Problems and Structural Amygdala Volume Differences in Autistic and Non- Autistic Youth


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Autism is a cluster of highly heterogenous neurodevelopmental conditions that impacts differences in socio-emotional information processing; however, to date, little work has focused on the relevant brain systems involved in anxiety-related emotional processing in autistic youth. Importantly, despite recent efforts in broadening characterizations of the different presentations of autism based on sex assigned at birth, little is known about differences in psychopathological and neurodevelopmental trajectories between autistic girls and autistic boys. The present study interrogated neurodevelopmental differences in bilateral structural amygdala volumes in a sex balanced sample of autistic and nonautistic girls and boys aged 8-17 years old; we tested for effects of sex, IQ, diagnosis, along with anxiety problems and social behavior problems, in addition to interactions among these variables. Overall, between group comparisons did not reveal meaningful statistical differences in normalized left and right amygdala volumes when comparing autistic and typically developing (TD) counterparts. Autistic females (ASDf ) reported significantly greater anxiety problems relative to typically developing females TDf. Additionally, autistic males (ASDm) and ASDf did not differ on anxiety or social behavioral problem measures. As well, ASDf anxiety as a predictor of left or right amygdala volume did not survive statistical significance.