Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of temporo-occipital regions in the pathophysiology of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) by using REM sleep and waking EEG.
Methods: The EEG recordings of 9 persons with ASD and 8 control participants were recorded using a 12-electrode montage. Spectral analysis (0.75-19.75 Hz) was performed on EEG activity recorded upon two activated states: REM sleep and wakefulness.
Results: During REM sleep, persons with ASD showed a selective, significantly lower absolute beta (13.0-19.75 Hz) spectral amplitude over the primary (O(1), O(2)) and associative (T(5), T(6)) cortical visual areas compared to controls. Persons with ASD showed significantly higher absolute theta (4.0-7.75 Hz) spectral amplitude over the left frontal pole region (Fp1) compared to controls during evening wakefulness, but not during morning wakefulness.
Significance: The results of waking EEG are consistent with previously reported observations of neuropsychological signs of frontal atypicalities in ASD; results from REM sleep are the first EEG evidence to support the hypothesis of abnormal visuoperceptual functioning in ASD. Altogether, these results point toward atypical thalamo-cortical mechanisms subserving the neural processing of information in ASD.