Cereb Cortex 2020 04;30(4):2199-2214
Computational Radiology Laboratory, Department of Radiology, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115 USA.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a rare genetic disorder characterized by benign tumors throughout the body; it is generally diagnosed early in life and has a high prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making it uniquely valuable in studying the early development of autism, before neuropsychiatric symptoms become apparent. One well-documented deficit in ASD is an impairment in face processing. In this work, we assessed whether anatomical connectivity patterns of the fusiform gyrus, a central structure in face processing, capture the risk of developing autism early in life. We longitudinally imaged TSC patients at 1, 2, and 3 years of age with diffusion compartment imaging. We evaluated whether the anatomical connectivity fingerprint of the fusiform gyrus was associated with the risk of developing autism measured by the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI). Our findings suggest that the fusiform gyrus connectivity captures the risk of developing autism as early as 1 year of age and provides evidence that abnormal fusiform gyrus connectivity increases with age. Moreover, the identified connections that best capture the risk of developing autism involved the fusiform gyrus and limbic and paralimbic regions that were consistent with the ASD phenotype, involving an increased number of left-lateralized structures with increasing age.