University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Connectivity in Autism: A Review of MRI Connectivity Studies

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Autism Spectrum Disorder; Diffusion Tensor Imaging; Humans; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; White Matter


Mental Disorders | Psychiatry


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 years. The etiology of ASD is not precisely known. ASD is an umbrella term, which includes both low- (IQ < 70) and high-functioning (IQ > 70) individuals. A better understanding of the disorder and how it manifests in individual subjects can lead to more effective intervention plans to fulfill the individual's treatment needs.Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive investigational tool that can be used to study the ways in which the brain develops or deviates from the typical developmental trajectory. MRI offers insights into the structure, function, and metabolism of the brain. In this article, we review published studies on brain connectivity changes in ASD using either resting state functional MRI or diffusion tensor imaging.The general findings of decreases in white matter integrity and in long-range neural coherence are well known in the ASD literature. Nevertheless, the detailed localization of these findings remains uncertain, and few studies link these changes in connectivity with the behavioral phenotype of the disorder. With the help of data sharing and large-scale analytic efforts, however, the field is advancing toward several convergent themes, including the reduced functional coherence of long-range intra-hemispheric cortico-cortical default mode circuitry, impaired inter-hemispheric regulation, and an associated, perhaps compensatory, increase in local and short-range cortico-subcortical coherence.

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Citation: Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2015 Jul-Aug;23(4):223-44. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000072. Link to article on publisher's site

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