Individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) have difficulties in social interaction and communication, which is reflected in hypoactivation of brain regions engaged in social processing, such as medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), amygdala and insula. Resting state studies in ASC have identified reduced connectivity of the default mode network (DMN), which includes mPFC, suggesting that other resting state networks incorporating 'social' brain regions may also be abnormal. Using seed-based connectivity and group independent component analysis (ICA) approaches, we looked at resting functional connectivity in ASC between specific 'social' brain regions, as well as within and between whole networks incorporating these regions. We found reduced functional connectivity within the DMN in individuals with ASC, using both ICA and seed-based approaches. Two further networks identified by ICA, the salience network, incorporating the insula and a medial temporal lobe network, incorporating the amygdala, showed reduced inter-network connectivity. This was underlined by reduced seed-based connectivity between the insula and amygdala. The results demonstrate significantly reduced functional connectivity within and between resting state networks incorporating 'social' brain regions. This reduced connectivity may result in difficulties in communication and integration of information across these networks, which could contribute to the impaired processing of social signals in ASC.
Keywords: autism; fMRI; resting state.