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The idiosyncratic brain: distortion of spontaneous connectivity patterns in autism spectrum disorder

Nature Neuroscience volume 18, pages 302309 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been associated with a reduction in resting state functional connectivity, though this assertion has recently been challenged by reports of increased connectivity in ASD. To address these contradictory findings, we examined both inter- and intrahemispheric functional connectivity in several resting state data sets acquired from adults with high-functioning ASD and matched control participants. Our results reveal areas of both increased and decreased connectivity in multiple ASD groups as compared to control groups. We propose that this heterogeneity stems from a previously unrecognized ASD characteristic: idiosyncratic distortions of the functional connectivity pattern relative to the typical, canonical template. The magnitude of an individual's pattern distortion in homotopic interhemispheric connectivity correlated significantly with behavioral symptoms of ASD. We propose that individualized alterations in functional connectivity organization are a core characteristic of high-functioning ASD, and that this may account for previous discrepant findings.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank H. Dubossarsky and T. Golan for numerous discussions and suggestions that contributed greatly to this work, and Y. Cohen for assistance with illustrations. This study was supported by the Israeli Presidential Bursary for outstanding PhD students in brain research (A.H.); the Simons Foundation SFARI award 298640 and the Pennsylvania Department of Health SAP grant 4100047862 (M.B.); and a European Union Future Emerging Technologies -7 – Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-Embodiment, Israeli Science Foundation, and Israeli Center of Research Excellence grant 51/11, European Union Flagship The Human Brain Project and the Helen and Martin Kimmel award (R.M.). Funding sources for the ABIDE data sets are listed at http://fcon_1000.projects.nitrc.org/indi/abide/index.html.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

    • Avital Hahamy
    •  & Rafael Malach
  2. Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

    • Marlene Behrmann

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Contributions

A.H. conducted the data analyses; A.H., M.B. and R.M. interpreted the results and wrote the manuscript; R.M. supervised the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rafael Malach.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3919

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