Synchrony between sensory and cognitive networks is associated with subclinical variation in autistic traits
© 2015 Young, Smith, Coutlee and Huettel. Individuals with autistic spectrum disorders exhibit distinct personality traits linked to attentional, social, and affective functions, and those traits are expressed with varying levels of severity in the neurotypical and subclinical population. Variation in autistic traits has been linked to reduced functional and structural connectivity (i.e., underconnectivity, or reduced synchrony) with neural networks modulated by attentional, social, and affective functions. Yet, it remains unclear whether reduced synchrony between these neural networks contributes to autistic traits. To investigate this issue, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record brain activation while neurotypical participants who varied in their subclinical scores on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) viewed alternating blocks of social and nonsocial stimuli (i.e., images of faces and of landscape scenes). We used independent component analysis (ICA) combined with a spatiotemporal regression to quantify synchrony between neural networks. Our results indicated that decreased synchrony between the executive control network (ECN) and a face-scene network (FSN) predicted higher scores on the AQ. This relationship was not explained by individual differences in head motion, preferences for faces, or personality variables related to social cognition. Our findings build on clinical reports by demonstrating that reduced synchrony between distinct neural networks contributes to a range of subclinical autistic traits.
Young, JS; Smith, DV; Coutlee, CG; Huettel, SA
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