Autism notes: brain networks

Dosenbach, N. U. F., Fair, D. A., Miezin, F. M., Cohen, A. L., Wenger, K. K., Dosenbach, R. A. T., … Petersen, S. E. (2007). Distinct brain networks for adaptive and stable task control in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(26), 11073–11078.

Control regions in the brain are thought to provide signals that configure the brain's moment-to-moment information processing. Previously, we identified regions that carried signals related to task-control initiation, maintenance, and adjustment. Here we characterize the interactions of these regions by applying graph theory to resting state functional connectivity MRI data. In contrast to previous, more unitary models of control, this approach suggests the presence of two distinct task-control networks. A frontoparietal network included the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus. This network emphasized start-cue and error-related activity and may initiate and adapt control on a trial-by-trial basis. The second network included dorsal anterior cingulate/medial superior frontal cortex, anterior insula/frontal operculum, and anterior prefrontal cortex. Among other signals, these regions showed activity sustained across the entire task epoch, suggesting that this network may control goal-directed behavior through the stable maintenance of task sets. These two independent networks appear to operate on different time scales and affect downstream processing via dissociable mechanisms.

Plitt, M., Barnes, K. A., Wallace, G. L., Kenworthy, L., & Martin, A. (2015). Resting-state functional connectivity predicts longitudinal change in autistic traits and adaptive functioning in autism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(48), E6699–E6706.

Although typically identified in early childhood, the social communication symptoms and adaptive behavior deficits that are characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) persist throughout the lifespan. Despite this persistence, even individuals without cooccurring intellectual disability show substantial heterogeneity in outcomes. Previous studies have found various behavioral assessments [such as intelligence quotient (IQ), early language ability, and baseline autistic traits and adaptive behavior scores] to be predictive of outcome, but most of the variance in functioning remains unexplained by such factors. In this study, we investigated to what extent functional brain connectivity measures obtained from resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rs-fcMRI) could predict the variance left unexplained by age and behavior (follow-up latency and baseline autistic traits and adaptive behavior scores) in two measures of outcome--adaptive behaviors and autistic traits at least 1 y postscan (mean follow-up latency = 2 y, 10 mo). We found that connectivity involving the so-called salience network (SN), default-mode network (DMN), and frontoparietal task control network (FPTCN) was highly predictive of future autistic traits and the change in autistic traits and adaptive behavior over the same time period. Furthermore, functional connectivity involving the SN, which is predominantly composed of the anterior insula and the dorsal anterior cingulate, predicted reliable improvement in adaptive behaviors with 100% sensitivity and 70.59% precision. From rs-fcMRI data, our study successfully predicted heterogeneity in outcomes for individuals with ASD that was unaccounted for by simple behavioral metrics and provides unique evidence for networks underlying long-term symptom abatement.