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‘Idiosyncratic’ brain patterns discovered in autism

() has been studied for many years, but there are still many more questions than answers. For example, some research into the brain functions of individuals with have found a lack of synchronization (‘connectivity’) between different parts of the brain that normally work in tandem. But other studies have found the exact opposite – over-synchronization in the brains of those with .

New research recently published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that the various reports — of both over- and under-connectivity — may, in fact, reflect a deeper principle of brain function. Led by scientists at the Weizmann Institute and , the study shows that the brains of individuals with autism display unique synchronization patterns, something that could impact earlier diagnosis of the disorder and future treatments.

“Identifying brain profiles that differ from the pattern observed in typically developing individuals is crucial not only in that it allows researchers to begin to understand the differences that arise in ASD but, in this case, it opens up the possibility that there are many altered brain profiles all of which fall under the umbrella of ‘autism’ or ‘autisms,’” said Marlene Behrmann, the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at and co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

Researchers Discover 'Idiosyncratic' Brain Patterns in Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been studied for many years, but there are still many more questions than answers. For example, some research into the brain functions of individuals with autism spectrum have found a lack of synchronization (“connectivity”) between different parts of the brain that normally work in tandem. But other studies have found the exact opposite — over-synchronization in the brains of those with ASD.

New research recently published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that the various reports — of both over- and under-connectivity — may, in fact, reflect a deeper principle of brain function. Led by scientists at the Weizmann Institute and Carnegie Mellon University, the study shows that the brains of individuals with autism display unique synchronization patterns, something that could impact earlier diagnosis of the disorder and future treatments.

This image shows a comparison in the extent of the voxel deviation from the typical profile two individuals with autism. The individual with the more severe (right) showed greater deviations, both positive (more red) and negative (lighter blue), from the typical inter-hemispheric connectivity pattern compared to the individual with the less severe (left). In other words, the deviations from the control pattern was larger in the participant with the more severe symptoms.
Credit:Carnegie Mellon University


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In addition to Behrmann and Hahamy, the research team included Weizmann Institute’s Rafael Malach.

The Simons Foundation (Autism Research Initiative) funded this research.

Carnegie Mellon University