A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2018 | Number 4, Volume 32

Local underconnectivity, not overconnectivity, linked to symptoms in ASD

A new study challenges the widely accepted theory that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) involve a combination of long-distance underconnectivity and short-distance overconnectivity in the brain. 

Marc-Antoine d’Albis and colleagues note that previous studies investigating short-distance brain connectivity in ASD involved children of differing ages with differing ASD symptoms and used non-specific neuroimaging methods. In contrast, d’Albis and his team recruited a homogenous group of 27 males with ASD but without intellectual disabilities and compared this group to 31 controls using a method specifically designed to study short-distance connectivity. 

The researchers report, “In contradiction with the models of short-range overconnectivity in autism spectrum disorder, we found that patients with autism spectrum disorder had a significantly decreased anatomical connectivity in a component comprising 13 short tracts compared to controls. Specific short-tract atypicalities in temporal lobe and insula were significantly associated with clinical manifestations of autism spectrum disorder such as social awareness, language structure, pragmatic skills, and empathy, emphasizing their importance in social dysfunction.” 

The researchers say their findings, while preliminary, suggest that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation—which appears to affect structural connectivity—may be a useful treatment for the social cognition deficits seen in ASD.


“Local structural connectivity is associated with social cognition in autism spectrum disorder,” MarcAntoine d’Albis,  Pamela Guevara,  Miguel Guevara,  Charles Laidi, Jennifer Boisgontier,  Samuel Sarrazin,  Delphine Duclap,  Richard Delorme, Federico Bolognani,  Christian Czech,  Céline Bouquet,  Myriam Ly-Le Moal, Stefan Holiga,  Anouck Amestoy,  Isabelle Scheid,  Alexandru Gaman, Marion Leboyer,  Cyril Poupon,  Jean-François Mangin, and Josselin Houenou, Brain, November 13, 2018 (free online). Address: Josselin Houenou, INSERM U955 “Translational psychiatry” APHP, Hôpitaux Universitaires Mondor 40 rue de Mesly, 94000 Créteil, France, [email protected].