Atypical effective connectivity of thalamo-cortical circuits in autism spectrum disorder

Heng Chen, Lucina Q Uddin, Youxue Zhang, Xujun Duan, Huafu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by atypical connectivity within and across multiple brain systems. We aimed to explore information transmission from the sensory periphery to information processing centers of the brain across thalamo-cortical circuits in ASD. A large multicenter dataset from the autism brain imaging data exchange was utilized. A thalamus template derived from the Automatic Anatomic Labeling atlas was subdivided into six subregions corresponding to six cortical regions using a "winner-takes-all" strategy. Granger causality analysis (GCA) was then applied to calculate effective connectivity from subregions of the thalamus to the corresponding cortical regions. Results demonstrate reduced effective connectivity from the thalamus to left prefrontal cortex (P=0.023), right posterior parietal cortex (P=0.03), and bilateral temporal cortex (left: P=0.014; right: P=0.015) in ASD compared with healthy control (HC) participants. The GCA values of the thalamus-bilateral temporal cortex connections were significantly negatively correlated with communication scores as assessed by the autism diagnostic observation schedule in the ASD group (left: P=0.037; right: P=0.007). Age-related analyses showed that the strengths of the thalamus-bilateral temporal cortex connections were significantly positively correlated with age in the HC group (left: P=0.013; right: P=0.016), but not in the ASD group (left: P=0.506; right: P=0.219). These results demonstrate impaired thalamo-cortical information transmission in ASD and suggest that atypical development of thalamus-temporal cortex connections may relate to communication deficits in the disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAutism Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2016



  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Brain development
  • Granger causality analysis
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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