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Excessive Functional Coupling With Less Variability Between Salience and Default Mode Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published:December 17, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2021.11.016

      Abstract

      Background

      Atypical activity in the salience network (SN) and default mode network (DMN) has been previously reported in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, no study to date has investigated the nature and dynamics of the interaction between these two networks in ASD.

      Methods

      Here, we aimed to characterize the functional connectivity between the SN and the DMN by using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange and comparing individuals with ASD (n = 325) to a typically developing group (n = 356). We examined static and dynamic levels of functional connectivity using the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) seed as a core region of the DMN.

      Results

      We found that individuals with ASD have higher mPFC connectivity with the insula, a core region of the SN, when compared with the typical development group. Moreover, the mPFC-insula coupling showed less variability in ASD compared with the typical development group. A novel semblance-based network dynamic analysis further confirmed that the strong mPFC-insula coupling in the ASD group reduced spontaneous attentional shift for possible external elements of the environment. Indeed, we found that excessive mPFC-insula coupling was significantly associated with a tendency for reduced social responsiveness.

      Conclusions

      These findings suggest that the internally oriented cognition in individuals with ASD may be due to excessive coupling between the DMN and the SN.

      Keywords

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