Local and long-range functional connectivity is reduced in concert in autism spectrum disorders

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 19;110(8):3107-12. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1214533110. Epub 2013 Jan 14.


Long-range cortical functional connectivity is often reduced in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the nature of local cortical functional connectivity in ASD has remained elusive. We used magnetoencephalography to measure task-related local functional connectivity, as manifested by coupling between the phase of alpha oscillations and the amplitude of gamma oscillations, in the fusiform face area (FFA) of individuals diagnosed with ASD and typically developing individuals while they viewed neutral faces, emotional faces, and houses. We also measured task-related long-range functional connectivity between the FFA and the rest of the cortex during the same paradigm. In agreement with earlier studies, long-range functional connectivity between the FFA and three distant cortical regions was reduced in the ASD group. However, contrary to the prevailing hypothesis in the field, we found that local functional connectivity within the FFA was also reduced in individuals with ASD when viewing faces. Furthermore, the strength of long-range functional connectivity was directly correlated to the strength of local functional connectivity in both groups; thus, long-range and local connectivity were reduced proportionally in the ASD group. Finally, the magnitude of local functional connectivity correlated with ASD severity, and statistical classification using local and long-range functional connectivity data identified ASD diagnosis with 90% accuracy. These results suggest that failure to entrain neuronal assemblies fully both within and across cortical regions may be characteristic of ASD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / physiopathology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Young Adult