Brain Connect 2019 02 31;9(1):48-59. Epub 2018 Jul 31.
2 Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical and Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
This study examines the resting-state functional-connectivity (RsFc) in young adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD) using state-of-the-art fMRI data acquisition and analysis techniques. High temporal resolution fMRI using simultaneous multi-slice acquisition aided unbiased whole-brain connectome-wide multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) techniques for assessing RsFc. MVPA revealed two clusters (Crus I/II and lobule IX) of abnormal connectivity in the cerebellum that are consistent with the notion of a triple representation of nonmotor processing in the cerebellum. Whole-brain seed-based RsFc analyses informed by these clusters showed significant under connectivity between the cerebellar and social, emotional, and language brain regions in the HF-ASD group compared to healthy controls. The results we report are coherent with existing structural, functional, and RsFc literature in autism, extend previous literature reporting cerebellar abnormalities in the neuropathology of autism, and highlight the cerebellum as a potential target for therapeutic, diagnostic, predictive, and prognostic developments in HF-ASD. The description of functional connectivity abnormalities reported in this study using whole-brain, data-driven analyses has the potential to crucially advance the development of ASD biomarkers, targets for therapeutic interventions, and neural predictors for measuring treatment response.