Fetal brain scan research examines early indicators of autism

In a paper published in Nature, King’s researchers from Centre for the Developing Brain have  discovered evidence supporting an association between isolated ventriculomegaly and autism traits.

The study followed two groups of children, one with a normal fetal brain MR assessment and those with an antenatal diagnosis of isolated ventriculomegaly, with a developmental follow up assessments at 2 years of age and primary school age. Participating children were initially scanned as fetuses then tested with a range of developmental measures including IQ, autism traits, sustained attention, neurological functioning, behaviour, executive function, sensory processing, co-ordination and adaptive behaviours.

Fetal ventriculomegaly is the most common antenatally-diagnosed brain abnormality and is diagnosed when the lateral ventricles measure larger than normal on antenatal ultrasound or MR imaging. This study demonstrates an association between this most common developmental fetal brain anomaly and autism traits. The results may improve counselling for families and aid early identification, support and intervention, with further research warranted to confirm initial findings within a larger population.  The Centre for the Developing Brain is part of the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences and has advanced MR imaging facilities, including a novel fetal imaging capability and a new dedicated MR imaging suite sited within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the families who participated in this study. This study was supported by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Medical Engineering at Kings College London and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Read the full article on