ISSN: 1899-0967
Polish Journal of Radiology
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vol. 86
Original paper

Is there any relationship between autism and pineal gland volume?

Feride F. Görgülü
Ayşe S. Koç

Department of Radiology, University of Health Sciences, Adana Health Practice and Research Center, Adana, Turkey
Pol J Radiol 2021; 86: e225-e231
Online publish date: 2021/04/22
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Abnormalities in melatonin physiology and circadian rhythm are detected in patients with autism. Melatonin is produced predominantly in the pineal gland and the amount of melatonin released is proportional to the pineal gland volume. This study aimed to examine whether the pineal gland volume in children with autism is different from that in healthy children.

Material and methods
Brain magnetic resonance images (MRI) of 120 paediatric patients with autism and 82 control paediatric subjects were examined; pineal parenchymal volume (PPV), pineal cyst rate (PCR), and total pineal gland volume (TPGV) were measured using a multimodality viewer (MMV), but only the TPGVs were measured using a tumour tracking (TT) method. Measurements were taken by 2 separate radiologists.

In patients with autism, the PPV and TPGV according to MMV, and the TPGV according to TT were significantly lower, and the PCR was significantly higher. Moreover, the ratio of PPV to TPGV was significantly lower in the autism patient group. In both groups, the TPGVs were significantly lower in the autism patient group than the controls among all age groups.

Our study was the first to examine TPGVs in detail in paediatric patients with autism using 2 different methods. Low PPV-TPGV and high PCR have been observed in autism. This study also provides comparable reference values for pineal gland size in healthy children or autistic children aged 2-17 years. These results show promising potential for further research to understand the relationship between autism pathogenesis and the pineal gland.


pineal gland, autism spectrum disorder, children, brain MRI, pineal parenchyma

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