Translational use of event-related potentials to assess circuit integrity in ASD

Nat Rev Neurol. 2017 Mar;13(3):160-170. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2017.15. Epub 2017 Feb 17.


Deficits in social cognition are the defining characteristic of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Social cognition requires the integration of several neural circuits in a time-sensitive fashion, so impairments in social interactions could arise as a result of alterations in network connectivity. Electroencephalography (EEG) has revealed abnormalities in event related potentials (ERPs) evoked by auditory and visual sensory stimuli in humans with ASD, indicating disruption of neural connectivity. Similar abnormalities in sensory-evoked ERPs have been observed in animal models of ASD, suggesting that ERPs have the potential to provide a translational biomarker of the disorder. People with ASD also have abnormal ERPs in response to auditory and visual social stimuli, demonstrating functional disruption of the social circuit. To assess the integrity of the social circuit and characterize biomarkers of circuit dysfunction, novel EEG paradigms that use social stimuli to induce ERPs should be developed for use in animal models. The identification of a socially-relevant ERP that is consistent in animal models and humans would facilitate the development of pharmacological treatment strategies for the social impairments in ASD and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans