Changes in the topological organization of the default mode network in autism spectrum disorder

Brain Imaging Behav. 2021 Apr;15(2):1058-1067. doi: 10.1007/s11682-020-00312-8.

Abstract

Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is accompanied by abnormal functional and structural features in specific brain regions of the default mode network (DMN). However, little is known about the alterations of the topological organization and the functional connectivity (FC) of the DMN in ASD patients. Thirty-seven ASD patients and 38 healthy control (HC) participants underwent a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. Twenty DMN subregions were specifically selected to construct the DMN architecture. We applied graph theory approaches to the topological configuration and compare the FC patterns of the DMN. We then examined the relationships between the neuroimaging measures of the DMN and clinical characteristics in patients with ASD. The current study revealed that both the ASD and HC participants showed a small-world regimen in the DMN; however there were no significant differences in global network measures. Compared with the HC group, the ASD group exhibited significantly decreased nodal centralities in the bilateral anterior medial prefrontal cortex and increased nodal centralities in the right lateral temporal cortex and the right retrosplenial cortex. Patients with ASD displayed significantly reduced and increased FC within the DMN. Our findings demonstrated that ASD patients showed a pattern of disrupted FC metrics and nodal network metrics in the DMN, which could be a potential biomarker for objective ASD diagnoses and for the level of autism spectrum traits. HIGHLIGHTS: We used graph theoretical approaches and functional connectivity (FC) to investigate the topological configuration and FC patterns of the DMN in ASD. The current study revealed that both ASD and HC participants exhibited small-world regimes in the DMN, however there were no significant differences in global network measures. The ASD group showed abnormal nodal centralities in the bilateral aMPFC, the right LTC and the Rsp of the DMN, and ASD was characterized by altered FC patterns, including decreased and increased FC within the DMN.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD); Autism spectrum traits; Default mode network (DMN); Graph theory; Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI).

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Default Mode Network
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging