Brain Networks in Autism: Some Underconnected, Others Overconnected

 close up of angela

A study led by former Psychology MA student Angela Abbott (graduating class of 2013) and performed in SDSU Psychology Professor Dr. Ralph-Axel Müller’s lab, examined functional brain connectivity in autism and was recently published in one of the top neuroscience journals (Cerebral Cortex, impact factor 8.7). The findings show that the brains of children and adolescents with autism are not generally ‘underconnected’ (as previously believed), but that abnormal connectivity shows very different patterns for different functional networks (e.g., social or executive). Particularly striking were findings for the salience network, which is important in alerting the brain to important stimuli and ‘switching it into action mode’. This network was broadly underconnected with other parts of the brain and this underconnectivity was associated with behavioral problems in sensory, social, and executive domains. Another finding related to differences between brain hemispheres. Whereas the executive network in the left hemisphere was underconnected in autism, the executive network in the right hemisphere was overconnected. This finding expands on previous evidence of unusual right-hemisphere involvement in language functions in autism. [Click here to access study]



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