[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The importance of the hippocampal system for rapid learning and memory is well recognized, but its contributions to a cardinal feature of children's cognitive development-the transition from procedure-based to memory-based problem-solving strategies-are unknown. Here we show that the hippocampal system is pivotal to this strategic transition. Longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 7-9-year-old children revealed that the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving. Longitudinal improvements in retrieval-strategy use were predicted by increased hippocampal-neocortical functional connectivity. Beyond childhood, retrieval-strategy use continued to improve through adolescence into adulthood and was associated with decreased activation but more stable interproblem representations in the hippocampus. Our findings provide insights into the dynamic role of the hippocampus in the maturation of memory-based problem solving and establish a critical link between hippocampal-neocortical reorganization and children's cognitive development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Developmental dyscalculia (DD) is marked by specific deficits in processing numerical and mathematical information despite normal intelligence (IQ) and reading ability. We examined how brain circuits used by young children with DD to solve simple addition and subtraction problems differ from those used by typically developing (TD) children who were matched on age, IQ, reading ability, and working memory. Children with DD were slower and less accurate during problem solving than TD children, and were especially impaired on their ability to solve subtraction problems. Children with DD showed significantly greater activity in multiple parietal, occipito-temporal and prefrontal cortex regions while solving addition and subtraction problems. Despite poorer performance during subtraction, children with DD showed greater activity in multiple intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) and superior parietal lobule subdivisions in the dorsal posterior parietal cortex as well as fusiform gyrus in the ventral occipito-temporal cortex. Critically, effective connectivity analyses revealed hyper-connectivity, rather than reduced connectivity, between the IPS and multiple brain systems including the lateral fronto-parietal and default mode networks in children with DD during both addition and subtraction. These findings suggest the IPS and its functional circuits are a major locus of dysfunction during both addition and subtraction problem solving in DD, and that inappropriate task modulation and hyper-connectivity, rather than under-engagement and under-connectivity, are the neural mechanisms underlying problem solving difficulties in children with DD. We discuss our findings in the broader context of multiple levels of analysis and performance issues inherent in neuroimaging studies of typical and atypical development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background / Purpose:
Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often demonstrate remarkable cognitive strengths in domains such as mathematics. These, however, tend to be overlooked as emphasis is placed on impairments such as social communication deficits. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) provides a means to probe the subtle structural brain differences found between children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children. Recent studies have described the structure of a white-matter pathway connecting the hippocampus and fusiform gyrus, and have suggested the involvement of the fusiform gyrus in mathematical abilities in ASD.
Results suggest that a single white-matter tract, namely the fusiform-hippocampal pathway, is related to both strengths and deficits in children with ASD. A source of impairment, specifically social communication deficits, can also give rise to remarkable strengths in other domains such as mathematics.
69th Society of Biological Psychiatry Annual Meeting 2014; 06/2014
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social impairments alongside cognitive and behavioral inflexibility. While social deficits in ASD have been extensively characterized, the neurobiological basis of inflexibility and its relation to core clinical symptoms of the disorder are unknown. We acquired functional neuroimaging data from two cohorts, each consisting of 17 children with ASD and 17 age- and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) children, during stimulus-evoked brain states involving performance of social attention and numerical problem solving tasks, as well as during intrinsic, resting brain states. Effective connectivity between key nodes of the salience network, default mode network, and central executive network was used to obtain indices of functional organization across evoked and intrinsic brain states. In both cohorts examined, a machine learning algorithm was able to discriminate intrinsic (resting) and evoked (task) functional brain network configurations more accurately in TD children than in children with ASD. Brain state discriminability was related to severity of restricted and repetitive behaviors, indicating that weak modulation of brain states may contribute to behavioral inflexibility in ASD. These findings provide novel evidence for a potential link between neurophysiological inflexibility and core symptoms of this complex neurodevelopmental disorder.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting nearly 1 in 88 children, is thought to result from aberrant brain connectivity. Remarkably, there have been no systematic attempts to characterize whole-brain connectivity in children with ASD. Here, we use neuroimaging to show that there are more instances of greater functional connectivity in the brains of children with ASD in comparison to those of typically developing children. Hyperconnectivity in ASD was observed at the whole-brain and subsystems levels, across long- and short-range connections, and was associated with higher levels of fluctuations in regional brain signals. Brain hyperconnectivity predicted symptom severity in ASD, such that children with greater functional connectivity exhibited more severe social deficits. We replicated these findings in two additional independent cohorts, demonstrating again that at earlier ages, the brain of children with ASD is largely functionally hyperconnected in ways that contribute to social dysfunction. Our findings provide unique insights into brain mechanisms underlying childhood autism.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The human brain undergoes protracted developmental changes during which it constructs functional networks that engender complex cognitive abilities. Understanding brain function ultimately depends on knowledge of how dynamic interactions between distributed brain regions mature with age to produce sophisticated cognitive systems. This review summarizes recent progress in our understanding of the ontogeny of functional brain networks. Here I describe how complementary methods for probing functional connectivity are providing unique insights into the emergence and maturation of distinct functional networks from childhood to adulthood. I highlight six emerging principles governing the development of large-scale functional networks and discuss how they inform cognitive and affective function in typically developing children and in children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10/2013; · 16.01 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Baddeley and Hitch's multi-component working memory (WM) model has played an enduring and influential role in our understanding of cognitive abilities. Very little is known, however, about the neural basis of this multi-component WM model and the differential role each component plays in mediating arithmetic problem solving abilities in children. Here, we investigate the neural basis of the central executive (CE), phonological (PL) and visuo-spatial (VS) components of WM during a demanding mental arithmetic task in 7-9 year old children (N=74). The VS component was the strongest predictor of math ability in children and was associated with increased arithmetic complexity-related responses in left dorsolateral and right ventrolateral prefrontal cortices as well as bilateral intra-parietal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus in posterior parietal cortex. Critically, VS, CE and PL abilities were associated with largely distinct patterns of brain response. Overlap between VS and CE components was observed in left supramarginal gyrus and no overlap was observed between VS and PL components. Our findings point to a central role of visuo-spatial WM during arithmetic problem-solving in young grade-school children and highlight the usefulness of the multi-component Baddeley and Hitch WM model in fractionating the neural correlates of arithmetic problem solving during development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Early childhood anxiety has been linked to an increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders. Little, however, is known about its effect on the brain during a period in early childhood when anxiety-related traits begin to be reliably identifiable. Even less is known about the neurodevelopmental origins of individual differences in childhood anxiety.
We combined structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging with neuropsychological assessments of anxiety based on daily life experiences to investigate the effects of anxiety on the brain in 76 young children. We then used machine learning algorithms with balanced cross-validation to examine brain-based predictors of individual differences in childhood anxiety.
Even in children as young as ages 7 to 9, high childhood anxiety is associated with enlarged amygdala volume and this enlargement is localized specifically to the basolateral amygdala. High childhood anxiety is also associated with increased connectivity between the amygdala and distributed brain systems involved in attention, emotion perception, and regulation, and these effects are most prominent in basolateral amygdala. Critically, machine learning algorithms revealed that levels of childhood anxiety could be reliably predicted by amygdala morphometry and intrinsic functional connectivity, with the left basolateral amygdala emerging as the strongest predictor.
Individual differences in anxiety can be reliably detected with high predictive value in amygdala-centric emotion circuits at a surprisingly young age. Our study provides important new insights into the neurodevelopmental origins of anxiety and has significant implications for the development of predictive biomarkers to identify children at risk for anxiety disorders.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social and communication deficits. While such deficits have been the focus of most research, recent evidence suggests that individuals with ASD may exhibit cognitive strengths in domains such as mathematics.
Cognitive assessments and functional brain imaging were used to investigate mathematical abilities in 18 children with ASD and 18 age-, gender-, and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) children. Multivariate classification and regression analyses were used to investigate whether brain activity patterns during numerical problem solving were significantly different between the groups and predictive of individual mathematical abilities.
Children with ASD showed better numerical problem solving abilities and relied on sophisticated decomposition strategies for single-digit addition problems more frequently than TD peers. Although children with ASD engaged similar brain areas as TD children, they showed different multivariate activation patterns related to arithmetic problem complexity in ventral temporal-occipital cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and medial temporal lobe. Furthermore, multivariate activation patterns in ventral temporal-occipital cortical areas typically associated with face processing predicted individual numerical problem solving abilities in children with ASD but not in TD children.
Our study suggests that superior mathematical information processing in children with ASD is characterized by a unique pattern of brain organization and that cortical regions typically involved in perceptual expertise may be utilized in novel ways in ASD. Our findings of enhanced cognitive and neural resources for mathematics have critical implications for educational, professional, and social outcomes for individuals with this lifelong disorder.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The study of developmental disorders can provide a unique window into the role of domain-general cognitive abilities and neural systems in typical and atypical development. Mathematical disabilities (MD) are characterized by marked difficulty in mathematical cognition in the presence of preserved intelligence and verbal ability. Although studies of MD have most often focused on the role of core deficits in numerical processing, domain-general cognitive abilities, in particular working memory (WM), have also been implicated. Here we identify specific WM components that are impaired in children with MD and then examine their role in arithmetic problem solving. Compared to typically developing (TD) children, the MD group demonstrated lower arithmetic performance and lower visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM) scores with preserved abilities on the phonological and central executive components of WM. Whole brain analysis revealed that, during arithmetic problem solving, left posterior parietal cortex, bilateral dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, cingulate gyrus and precuneus, and fusiform gyrus responses were positively correlated with VSWM ability in TD children, but not in the MD group. Additional analyses using a priori posterior parietal cortex regions previously implicated in WM tasks, demonstrated a convergent pattern of results during arithmetic problem solving. These results suggest that MD is characterized by a common locus of arithmetic and VSWM deficits at both the cognitive and functional neuroanatomical levels. Unlike TD children, children with MD do not use VSWM resources appropriately during arithmetic problem solving. This work advances our understanding of VSWM as an important domain-general cognitive process in both typical and atypical mathematical skill development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: IMPORTANCE Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 88 children and is characterized by a complex phenotype, including social, communicative, and sensorimotor deficits. Autism spectrum disorder has been linked with atypical connectivity across multiple brain systems, yet the nature of these differences in young children with the disorder is not well understood. OBJECTIVES To examine connectivity of large-scale brain networks and determine whether specific networks can distinguish children with ASD from typically developing (TD) children and predict symptom severity in children with ASD. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Case-control study performed at Stanford University School of Medicine of 20 children 7 to 12 years old with ASD and 20 age-, sex-, and IQ-matched TD children. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Between-group differences in intrinsic functional connectivity of large-scale brain networks, performance of a classifier built to discriminate children with ASD from TD children based on specific brain networks, and correlations between brain networks and core symptoms of ASD. RESULTS We observed stronger functional connectivity within several large-scale brain networks in children with ASD compared with TD children. This hyperconnectivity in ASD encompassed salience, default mode, frontotemporal, motor, and visual networks. This hyperconnectivity result was replicated in an independent cohort obtained from publicly available databases. Using maps of each individual's salience network, children with ASD could be discriminated from TD children with a classification accuracy of 78%, with 75% sensitivity and 80% specificity. The salience network showed the highest classification accuracy among all networks examined, and the blood oxygen-level dependent signal in this network predicted restricted and repetitive behavior scores. The classifier discriminated ASD from TD in the independent sample with 83% accuracy, 67% sensitivity, and 100% specificity. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Salience network hyperconnectivity may be a distinguishing feature in children with ASD. Quantification of brain network connectivity is a step toward developing biomarkers for objectively identifying children with ASD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasant stimuli. Although anhedonia is a prominent feature of many psychiatric disorders, trait anhedonia is also observed dimensionally in healthy individuals. Currently, the neurobiological basis of anhedonia is poorly understood because it has been mainly investigated in patients with psychiatric disorders. Thus, previous studies have not been able to adequately disentangle the neural correlates of anhedonia from other clinical symptoms. In this study, trait anhedonia was assessed in well-characterized healthy participants with no history of Axis I psychiatric illness. Functional magnetic resonance imaging with musical stimuli was used to examine brain responses and effective connectivity in relation to individual differences in anhedonia. We found that trait anhedonia was negatively correlated with pleasantness ratings of music stimuli and with activation of key brain structures involved in reward processing, including nucleus accumbens (NAc), basal forebrain and hypothalamus which are linked by the medial forebrain bundle to the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Brain regions important for processing salient emotional stimuli, including anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex were also negatively correlated with trait anhedonia. Furthermore, effective connectivity between NAc, VTA and paralimbic areas, that regulate emotional reactivity to hedonic stimuli, was negatively correlated with trait anhedonia. Our results indicate that trait anhedonia is associated with reduced reactivity and connectivity of mesolimbic and related limbic and paralimbic systems involved in reward processing. Critically, this association can be detected even in individuals without psychiatric illness. Our findings have important implications both for understanding the neurobiological basis of anhedonia and for the treatment of anhedonia in psychiatric disorders.
Journal of Psychiatric Research 06/2013; · 4.09 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent a formidable challenge for psychiatry and neuroscience because of their high prevalence, lifelong nature, complexity and substantial heterogeneity. Facing these obstacles requires large-scale multidisciplinary efforts. Although the field of genetics has pioneered data sharing for these reasons, neuroimaging had not kept pace. In response, we introduce the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE)-a grassroots consortium aggregating and openly sharing 1112 existing resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (R-fMRI) data sets with corresponding structural MRI and phenotypic information from 539 individuals with ASDs and 573 age-matched typical controls (TCs; 7-64 years) (http://fcon_1000.projects.nitrc.org/indi/abide/). Here, we present this resource and demonstrate its suitability for advancing knowledge of ASD neurobiology based on analyses of 360 male subjects with ASDs and 403 male age-matched TCs. We focused on whole-brain intrinsic functional connectivity and also survey a range of voxel-wise measures of intrinsic functional brain architecture. Whole-brain analyses reconciled seemingly disparate themes of both hypo- and hyperconnectivity in the ASD literature; both were detected, although hypoconnectivity dominated, particularly for corticocortical and interhemispheric functional connectivity. Exploratory analyses using an array of regional metrics of intrinsic brain function converged on common loci of dysfunction in ASDs (mid- and posterior insula and posterior cingulate cortex), and highlighted less commonly explored regions such as the thalamus. The survey of the ABIDE R-fMRI data sets provides unprecedented demonstrations of both replication and novel discovery. By pooling multiple international data sets, ABIDE is expected to accelerate the pace of discovery setting the stage for the next generation of ASD studies.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 18 June 2013; doi:10.1038/mp.2013.78.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often show insensitivity to the human voice, a deficit that is thought to play a key role in communication deficits in this population. The social motivation theory of ASD predicts that impaired function of reward and emotional systems impedes children with ASD from actively engaging with speech. Here we explore this theory by investigating distributed brain systems underlying human voice perception in children with ASD. Using resting-state functional MRI data acquired from 20 children with ASD and 19 age- and intelligence quotient-matched typically developing children, we examined intrinsic functional connectivity of voice-selective bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). Children with ASD showed a striking pattern of underconnectivity between left-hemisphere pSTS and distributed nodes of the dopaminergic reward pathway, including bilateral ventral tegmental areas and nucleus accumbens, left-hemisphere insula, orbitofrontal cortex, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Children with ASD also showed underconnectivity between right-hemisphere pSTS, a region known for processing speech prosody, and the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala, brain regions critical for emotion-related associative learning. The degree of underconnectivity between voice-selective cortex and reward pathways predicted symptom severity for communication deficits in children with ASD. Our results suggest that weak connectivity of voice-selective cortex and brain structures involved in reward and emotion may impair the ability of children with ASD to experience speech as a pleasurable stimulus, thereby impacting language and social skill development in this population. Our study provides support for the social motivation theory of ASD.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Intrinsic functional connectivity analysis using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) has become a powerful tool for examining brain functional organization. Global artifacts such as physiological noise pose a significant problem in estimation of intrinsic functional connectivity. Here we develop and test a novel random subspace method for functional connectivity (RSMFC) that effectively removes global artifacts in rsfMRI data. RSMFC estimates the partial correlation between a seed region and each target brain voxel using multiple subsets of voxels sampled randomly across the whole brain. We evaluated RSMFC on both simulated and experimental rsfMRI data and compared its performance with standard methods that rely on global mean regression (GSReg) which are widely used to remove global artifacts. Using extensive simulations we demonstrate that RSMFC is effective in removing global artifacts in rsfMRI data. Critically, using a novel simulated dataset we demonstrate that, unlike GSReg, RSMFC does not artificially introduce anti-correlations between inherently uncorrelated networks, a result of paramount importance for reliably estimating functional connectivity. Furthermore, we show that the overall sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of RSMFC are superior to GSReg. Analysis of posterior cingulate cortex connectivity in experimental rsfMRI data from 22 healthy adults revealed strong functional connectivity in the default mode network, including more reliable identification of connectivity with left and right medial temporal lobe regions that were missed by GSReg. Notably, compared to GSReg, negative correlations with lateral fronto-parietal regions were significantly weaker in RSMFC. Our results suggest that RSMFC is an effective method for minimizing the effects of global artifacts and artificial negative correlations, while accurately recovering intrinsic functional brain networks.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Now, more than ever, the ability to acquire mathematical skills efficiently is critical for academic and professional success, yet little is known about the behavioral and neural mechanisms that drive some children to acquire these skills faster than others. Here we investigate the behavioral and neural predictors of individual differences in arithmetic skill acquisition in response to 8-wk of one-to-one math tutoring. Twenty-four children in grade 3 (ages 8-9 y), a critical period for acquisition of basic mathematical skills, underwent structural and resting-state functional MRI scans pretutoring. A significant shift in arithmetic problem-solving strategies from counting to fact retrieval was observed with tutoring. Notably, the speed and accuracy of arithmetic problem solving increased with tutoring, with some children improving significantly more than others. Next, we examined whether pretutoring behavioral and brain measures could predict individual differences in arithmetic performance improvements with tutoring. No behavioral measures, including intelligence quotient, working memory, or mathematical abilities, predicted performance improvements. In contrast, pretutoring hippocampal volume predicted performance improvements. Furthermore, pretutoring intrinsic functional connectivity of the hippocampus with dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices and the basal ganglia also predicted performance improvements. Our findings provide evidence that individual differences in morphometry and connectivity of brain regions associated with learning and memory, and not regions typically involved in arithmetic processing, are strong predictors of responsiveness to math tutoring in children. More generally, our study suggests that quantitative measures of brain structure and intrinsic brain organization can provide a more sensitive marker of skill acquisition than behavioral measures.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Music is a cultural universal and a rich part of the human experience. However, little is known about common brain systems that support the processing and integration of extended, naturalistic 'real-world' music stimuli. We examined this question by presenting extended excerpts of symphonic music, and two pseudomusical stimuli in which the temporal and spectral structure of the Natural Music condition were disrupted, to non-musician participants undergoing functional brain imaging and analysing synchronized spatiotemporal activity patterns between listeners. We found that music synchronizes brain responses across listeners in bilateral auditory midbrain and thalamus, primary auditory and auditory association cortex, right-lateralized structures in frontal and parietal cortex, and motor planning regions of the brain. These effects were greater for natural music compared to the pseudo-musical control conditions. Remarkably, inter-subject synchronization in the inferior colliculus and medial geniculate nucleus was also greater for the natural music condition, indicating that synchronization at these early stages of auditory processing is not simply driven by spectro-temporal features of the stimulus. Increased synchronization during music listening was also evident in a right-hemisphere fronto-parietal attention network and bilateral cortical regions involved in motor planning. While these brain structures have previously been implicated in various aspects of musical processing, our results are the first to show that these regions track structural elements of a musical stimulus over extended time periods lasting minutes. Our results show that a hierarchical distributed network is synchronized between individuals during the processing of extended musical sequences, and provide new insight into the temporal integration of complex and biologically salient auditory sequences.
European Journal of Neuroscience 04/2013; · 3.75 Impact Factor