Repetitive and self-injurious behaviors: Associations with caudate volume in autism and fragile X syndrome

Jason J. Wolff, Heather C. Hazlett, Amy A. Lightbody, Allan L. Reiss, Joseph Piven

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65 Scopus citations


Background: Following from previous work suggesting that neurobehavioral features distinguish fragile X and idiopathic variants of autism, we investigated the relationships between four forms of repetitive behavior (stereotypy, self-injury, compulsivity, ritual behavior) and caudate nuclei volume in two groups: boys with fragile X syndrome, a subset of whom met criteria for autism, and a comparison group of boys with idiopathic autism. Methods: Bilateral caudate nuclei volumes were measured in boys aged 3 to 6 years with fragile X syndrome (n = 41), the subset of boys with fragile X syndrome and autism (n = 16), and boys with idiopathic autism (n = 30). Repetitive behaviors were measured using the Repetitive Behavior Scales-Revised. Results: For boys with idiopathic autism, left caudate volume was modestly associated with self-injury, while both compulsive and ritual behaviors showed significant positive correlations with bilateral caudate nuclei volumes, replicating previous results. For boys with fragile X syndrome, there was no such association between caudate volume and compulsive behaviors. However, we did identify significant positive correlations between self-injury total scores and number of self-injury topographies with bilateral caudate nuclei volumes. Conclusions: These findings suggest a specific role for the caudate nucleus in the early pathogenesis of self-injurious behavior associated with both idiopathic autism and fragile X syndrome. Results further indicate that the caudate may be differentially associated with compulsive behavior, highlighting the utility of isolating discrete brain-behavior associations within and between subtypes of autism spectrum disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurodevelopmental disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sincere thanks to our participating children and their families. Thanks also to Michael Graves, Martin Styner, Ph.D., and Jim Bodfish, Ph.D. Research was supported by NIH grants MH64708-05 (Piven, Reiss), MH61696 (Piven), MH050047 (Reiss), and P30 HD03110 (Piven).


  • Autism
  • Caudate
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Self-injurious behavior


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