Cerebro-cerebellar Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Nov 1;78(9):625-34. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.03.024. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Background: The cerebellum plays important roles in sensori-motor and supramodal cognitive functions. Cellular, volumetric, and functional abnormalities of the cerebellum have been found in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but no comprehensive investigation of cerebro-cerebellar connectivity in ASD is available.

Methods: We used resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging in 56 children and adolescents (28 subjects with ASD, 28 typically developing subjects) 8-17 years old. Partial and total correlation analyses were performed for unilateral regions of interest (ROIs), distinguished in two broad domains as sensori-motor (premotor/primary motor, somatosensory, superior temporal, and occipital) and supramodal (prefrontal, posterior parietal, and inferior and middle temporal).

Results: There were three main findings: 1) Total correlation analyses showed predominant cerebro-cerebellar functional overconnectivity in the ASD group; 2) partial correlation analyses that emphasized domain specificity (sensori-motor vs. supramodal) indicated a pattern of robustly increased connectivity in the ASD group (compared with the typically developing group) for sensori-motor ROIs but predominantly reduced connectivity for supramodal ROIs; and 3) this atypical pattern of connectivity was supported by significantly increased noncanonical connections (between sensori-motor cerebral and supramodal cerebellar ROIs and vice versa) in the ASD group.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that sensori-motor intrinsic functional connectivity is atypically increased in ASD, at the expense of connectivity supporting cerebellar participation in supramodal cognition.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Cerebellum; Cerebrum; Functional connectivity; MRI; Sensori-motor; Supramodal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / growth & development*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Rest
  • Severity of Illness Index