Disrupted cortical connectivity theory as an explanatory model for autism spectrum disorders
ABSTRACT Recent findings of neurological functioning in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) point to altered brain connectivity as a key feature of its pathophysiology. The cortical underconnectivity theory of ASD (Just et al., 2004) provides an integrated framework for addressing these new findings. This theory suggests that weaker functional connections among brain areas in those with ASD hamper their ability to accomplish complex cognitive and social tasks successfully. We will discuss this theory, but will modify the term underconnectivity to 'disrupted cortical connectivity' to capture patterns of both under- and over-connectivity in the brain. In this paper, we will review the existing literature on ASD to marshal supporting evidence for hypotheses formulated on the disrupted cortical connectivity theory. These hypotheses are: 1) underconnectivity in ASD is manifested mainly in long-distance cortical as well as subcortical connections rather than in short-distance cortical connections; 2) underconnectivity in ASD is manifested only in complex cognitive and social functions and not in low-level sensory and perceptual tasks; 3) functional underconnectivity in ASD may be the result of underlying anatomical abnormalities, such as problems in the integrity of white matter; 4) the ASD brain adapts to underconnectivity through compensatory strategies such as overconnectivity mainly in frontal and in posterior brain areas. This may be manifested as deficits in tasks that require frontal-parietal integration. While overconnectivity can be tested by examining the cortical minicolumn organization, long-distance underconnectivity can be tested by cognitively demanding tasks; and 5) functional underconnectivity in brain areas in ASD will be seen not only during complex tasks but also during task-free resting states. We will also discuss some empirical predictions that can be tested in future studies, such as: 1) how disrupted connectivity relates to cognitive impairments in skills such as Theory-of-Mind, cognitive flexibility, and information processing; and 2) how connection abnormalities relate to, and may determine, behavioral symptoms hallmarked by the triad of Impairments in ASD. Furthermore, we will relate the disrupted cortical connectivity model to existing cognitive and neural models of ASD.
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ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) have uncovered evidence for widespread functional and anatomical brain abnormalities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suggesting it to be a system-wide neural systems disorder. Nevertheless, most previous studies have focused on examining one index of neuropathology through a single neuroimaging modality, and seldom using multiple modalities to examine the same cohort of individuals. The current study aims to bring together multiple brain imaging modalities (structural MRI, DTI, and 1H-MRS) to investigate the neural architecture in the same set of individuals (19 high-functioning adults with ASD and 18 typically developing peers). Morphometry analysis revealed increased cortical thickness in ASD participants, relative to typical controls, across the left cingulate, left pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, left inferior temporal cortex, and right precuneus, and reduced cortical thickness in right cuneus and right precentral gyrus. ASD adults also had reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) and increased radial diffusivity (RD) for two clusters on the forceps minor of the corpus callosum, revealed by DTI analyses. 1H-MRS results showed a reduction in the N-acetylaspartate/Creatine ratio in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in ASD participants. A decision tree classification analysis across the three modalities resulted in classification accuracy of 91.9% with FA, RD, and cortical thickness as key predictors. Examining the same cohort of adults with ASD and their TD peers, this study found alterations in cortical thickness, white matter connectivity, and neurochemical concentration in ASD. These findings underscore the potential for multimodal imaging to better inform on the neural characteristics most relevant to the disorder.Cortex 03/2015; 66. DOI:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.02.008 · 6.04 Impact Factor
Chapter: Neuropsychiatry.[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: In this article, a variety of neuroimaging methods that have been applied to investigate autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) will be covered, and a review of the latest findings for each will be summarized. Studies that attempt to map identified brain anomalies in individuals with ASD are mapped onto the symptoms, traits, and severity of the disorder.Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference. V, Edited by Editor-in-Chief: Arthur W. Toga, 02/2015: chapter olume 3: Social Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, Clinical Brain Mapping.: pages Pages 1049–1060; Elsevier Inc.., ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-12-397316-0
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 03/2015;