J Neurosci 2019 09 3;39(37):7321-7331. Epub 2019 Jul 3.
Departments of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging,
Sensorimotor deficits are prevalent in many neurodevelopmental disorders like autism, including one of its common genetic etiologies, a 600 kb reciprocal deletion/duplication at 16p11.2. We have previously shown that copy number variations of 16p11.2 impact regional brain volume, white matter integrity, and early sensory responses in auditory cortex. Here, we test the hypothesis that abnormal cortical neurophysiology is present when genes in the 16p11.2 region are haploinsufficient, and in humans that this in turn may account for behavioral deficits specific to deletion carriers. We examine sensorimotor cortical network activity in males and females with 16p11.2 deletions compared with both typically developing individuals, and those with duplications of 16p11.2, using magnetoencephalographic imaging during preparation of overt speech or hand movements in tasks designed to be easy for all participants. In deletion carriers, modulation of beta oscillations (12-30 Hz) were increased during both movement types over effector-specific regions of motor cortices compared with typically developing individuals or duplication carriers, with no task-related performance differences between cohorts, even when corrected for their own cognitive and sensorimotor deficits. Reduced left hemispheric language specialization was observed in deletion carriers but not in duplication carriers. Neural activity over sensorimotor cortices in deletion carriers was linearly related to clinical measures of speech and motor impairment. These findings link insufficient copy number repeats at 16p11.2 to excessive neural activity (e.g., increased beta oscillations) in motor cortical networks for speech and hand motor control. These results have significant implications for understanding the neural basis of autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. The recurrent ∼600 kb deletion at 16p11.2 (BP4-BP5) is one of the most common genetic etiologies of ASD and, more generally, of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we use high-resolution magnetoencephalographic imaging (MEG-I) to define with millisecond precision the underlying neurophysiological signature of motor impairments for individuals with 16p11.2 deletions. We identify significant increases in beta (12-30 Hz) suppression in sensorimotor cortices related to performance during speech and hand movement tasks. These findings not only provide a neurophysiological phenotype for the clinical presentation of this genetic deletion, but also guide our understanding of how genetic variation encodes for neural oscillatory dynamics.