Enhanced connectivity between visual cortex and other regions of the brain in autism: a REM sleep EEG coherence study

Autism Res. 2010 Oct;3(5):280-5. doi: 10.1002/aur.155.


Functional interregional neural coupling was measured as EEG coherence during REM sleep, a state of endogenous cortical activation, in 9 adult autistic individuals (21.1±4.0 years) and 13 typically developed controls (21.5±4.3 years) monitored for two consecutive nights in a sleep laboratory. Spectral analysis was performed on 60 s of artefact-free EEG samples distributed equally throughout the first four REM sleep periods of the second night. EEG coherence was calculated for six frequency bands (delta, theta, alpha, sigma, beta, and total spectrum) using a 22-electrode montage. The magnitude of coherence function was computed for intra- and interhemispheric pairs of recording sites. Results were compared by Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA). Each time the autistic group showed a greater EEG coherence than the controls; it involved intrahemispheric communication among the left visual cortex (O1) and other regions either close to or distant from the occipital cortex. In contrast, lower coherence values involved frontal electrodes in the right hemisphere. No significant differences between groups were found for interhemispheric EEG coherence. These results show that the analysis of EEG coherence during REM sleep can disclose patterns of cortical connectivity that can be reduced or increased in adults with autism compared to typically developed individuals, depending of the cortical areas studied. Superior coherence involving visual perceptual areas in autism is consistent with an enhanced role of perception in autistic brain organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep, REM*
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult