Aberrant functional connectivity of neural circuits associated with social and sensorimotor deficits in young children with autism spectrum disorder

Heng Chen, Jia Wang, Lucina Q. Uddin, Xiaomin Wang, Xiaonan Guo, Fengmei Lu, Xujun Duan, Lijie Wu, Huafu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by atypical functional integration of brain regions. The vast majority of neuroimaging studies of ASD have focused on older children, adolescents, and adults with the disorder. Very little work has explored whole-brain functional connectivity of young children with ASD. Here, we collected resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 58 young children (mean age 4.98 years; 29 with ASD; 29 matched healthy controls [HC]). All children were under sedation during scanning. A functional “connectedness” method was first used to seek for brain regions showing atypical functional connectivity (FC) in children with ASD. Then, a recurrent-seek strategy was applied to reveal atypical FC circuits in ASD children. FC matrices between regions-of-interest (ROIs) were compared between ASD and HC. Finally, a support vector regression (SVR) method was used to assess the relationship between the FC circuits and ASD symptom severity. Two atypical FC circuits comprising 23 ROIs in ASD were revealed: one predominantly comprised brain regions involved with social cognition showing under-connectivity in ASD; the other predominantly comprised sensory-motor and visual brain regions showing over-connectivity in ASD. The SVR analysis showed that the two FC circuits were separately related to social deficits and restricted behavior scores. These findings indicate disrupted FC of neural circuits involved in the social and sensorimotor processes in young children with ASD. The finding of the atypical FC patterns in young children with ASD underscores the utility of studying younger children with the disorder, and highlights nuanced patterns of brain connectivity underlying behavior closer to disorder onset. Autism Research 2018, 11: 1643–1652.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1643-1652
Number of pages10
JournalAutism Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • resting state fMRI
  • support vector regression analysis
  • young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Aberrant functional connectivity of neural circuits associated with social and sensorimotor deficits in young children with autism spectrum disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this