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.
Copyright © 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.