[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: While there is almost universal agreement amongst researchers that autism is associated with alterations in brain connectivity, the precise nature of these alterations continues to be debated. Theoretical and empirical work is beginning to reveal that autism is associated with a complex functional phenotype characterized by both hypo- and hyper-connectivity of large-scale brain systems. It is not yet understood why such conflicting patterns of brain connectivity are observed across different studies, and the factors contributing to these heterogeneous findings have not been identified. Developmental changes in functional connectivity have received inadequate attention to date. We propose that discrepancies between findings of autism related hypo-connectivity and hyper-connectivity might be reconciled by taking developmental changes into account. We review neuroimaging studies of autism, with an emphasis on functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of intrinsic functional connectivity in children, adolescents and adults. The consistent pattern emerging across several studies is that while intrinsic functional connectivity in adolescents and adults with autism is generally reduced compared with age-matched controls, functional connectivity in younger children with the disorder appears to be increased. We suggest that by placing recent empirical findings within a developmental framework, and explicitly characterizing age and pubertal stage in future work, it may be possible to resolve conflicting findings of hypo- and hyper-connectivity in the extant literature and arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the neurobiology of autism.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 08/2013; 7:458. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00458 · 2.99 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Functional MRI studies report insular activations across a wide range of tasks involving affective, sensory, and motor processing, but also during tasks of high-level perception, attention, and control. Although insular cortical activations are often reported in the literature, the diverse functional roles of this region are still not well understood. We used a meta-analytic approach to analyze the coactivation profiles of insular subdivisions-dorsal anterior, ventral anterior, and posterior insula-across fMRI studies in terms of multiple task domains including emotion, memory, attention, and reasoning. We found extensive coactivation of each insular subdivision, with substantial overlap between coactivation partners for each subdivision. Functional fingerprint analyses revealed that all subdivisions cooperated with a functionally diverse set of regions. Graph-theoretical analyses revealed that the dorsal anterior insula was a highly "central" structure in the coactivation network. Furthermore, analysis of the studies that activate the insular cortex itself showed that the right dorsal anterior insula was a particularly "diverse" structure in that it was likely to be active across multiple task domains. These results highlight the nuanced functional profiles of insular subdivisions and are consistent with recent work suggesting that the dorsal anterior insula can be considered a critical functional hub in the human brain.
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