The Lag Structure of Intrinsic Activity is Focally Altered in High Functioning Adults with Autism


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Abstract

The behaviors that define autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been hypothesized to result from disordered communication within brain networks. Several groups have investigated this question using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI). However, the published findings to date have been inconsistent across laboratories. Prior RS-fMRI studies of ASD have employed conventional analysis techniques based on the assumption that intrinsic brain activity is exactly synchronous over widely separated parts of the brain. By relaxing the assumption of synchronicity and focusing, instead, on lags between time series, we have recently demonstrated highly reproducible patterns of temporally lagged activity in normal human adults. We refer to this analysis technique as resting-state lag analysis (RS-LA). Here, we report RS-LA as well as conventional analyses of RS-fMRI in adults with ASD and demographically matched controls. RS-LA analyses demonstrated significant group differences in rs-fMRI lag structure in frontopolar cortex, occipital cortex, and putamen. Moreover, the degree of abnormality in individuals was highly correlated with behavioral measures relevant to the diagnosis of ASD. In this sample, no significant group differences were observed using conventional RS-fMRI analysis techniques. Our results suggest that altered propagation of intrinsic activity may contribute to abnormal brain function in ASD.

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