A big-world network in ASD: dynamical connectivity analysis reflects a deficit in long-range connections and an excess of short-range connections

Neuropsychologia. 2011 Jan;49(2):254-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.11.024. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Over the last years, increasing evidence has fuelled the hypothesis that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition of altered brain functional connectivity. The great majority of these empirical studies relies on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which has a relatively poor temporal resolution. Only a handful of studies has examined networks emerging from dynamic coherence at the millisecond resolution and there are no investigations of coherence at the lowest frequencies in the power spectrum-which has recently been shown to reflect long-range cortico-cortical connections. Here we used electroencephalography (EEG) to assess dynamic brain connectivity in ASD focusing in the low-frequency (delta) range. We found that connectivity patterns were distinct in ASD and control populations and reflected a double dissociation: ASD subjects lacked long-range connections, with a most prominent deficit in fronto-occipital connections. Conversely, individuals with ASD showed increased short-range connections in lateral-frontal electrodes. This effect between categories showed a consistent parametric dependency: as ASD severity increased, short-range coherence was more pronounced and long-range coherence decreased. Theoretical arguments have been proposed arguing that distinct patterns of connectivity may result in networks with different efficiency in transmission of information. We show that the networks in ASD subjects have less Clustering coefficient, greater Characteristic Path Length than controls - indicating that the topology of the network departs from small-world behaviour - and greater modularity. Together these results show that delta-band coherence reveal qualitative and quantitative aspects associated with ASD pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome / pathology*
  • Asperger Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Delta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult