Abnormal modulation of corticospinal excitability in adults with Asperger's syndrome

Eur J Neurosci. 2012 Sep;36(6):2782-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2012.08172.x. Epub 2012 Jun 28.


Most candidate genes and genetic abnormalities linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are thought to play a role in developmental and experience-dependent plasticity. As a possible index of plasticity, we assessed the modulation of motor corticospinal excitability in individuals with Asperger's syndrome (AS) using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We measured the modulatory effects of theta-burst stimulation (TBS) on motor evoked potentials (MEPs) induced by single-pulse TMS in individuals with AS as compared with age-, gender- and IQ-matched neurotypical controls. The effect of TBS lasted significantly longer in the AS group. The duration of the TBS-induced modulation alone enabled the reliable classification of a second study cohort of subjects as AS or neurotypical. The alteration in the modulation of corticospinal excitability in AS is thought to reflect aberrant mechanisms of plasticity, and might provide a valuable future diagnostic biomarker for the disease and ultimately offer a target for novel therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asperger Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Asperger Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Theta Rhythm
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult