Network? analysis of the brain may explain features of autism 
Boston Children's Hospital | February 27, 2013 | Autistic disorders / 1 comment 

A look at how the brain processes information finds a distinct pattern in 
children with autism spectrum disorders. Using EEGs to track the brain? 
electrical cross-talk, researchers from Boston Children? Hospital have found a 
structural difference in brain connections. Compared with neurotypical 
children, those with autism have multiple redundant
 connections between neighboring brain areas at the expense of long-distance 

The study, using a ?etwork analysis? like that used to study airlines or 
electrical grids, may help in understanding some classic behaviors in autism. 
It was published February 27 in BioMed Central? open access journal BMC 
Medicine, accompanied by a commentary. 
?e examined brain networks as a whole in terms of their capacity to transfer 
and process information,? says Jurriaan Peters, MD, of the Department of 
Neurology at Boston Children? Hospital, who is co-first author of the paper 
with Maxime Taquet, a PhD student in Boston Children? Computational Radiology 
Laboratory. ?hat we found may well change the way we look at the brains of 
autistic children.? 
Peters, Taquet and senior authors Simon Warfield, PhD, of the Computational 
Radiology Laboratory and Mustafa Sahin, MD, PhD, of Neurology, analyzed EEG 
recordings from two groups of autistic children: 16 children with classic 
autism, and 14 children whose autism is part of a genetic syndrome known as 
tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). They compared these readings with EEGs from 
two control groups?46 healthy neurotypical children and 29 children with TSC 
but not autism. 
In both groups with autism, there were more short-range connections within 
different brain region, but fewer connections linking far-flung areas. 
A brain network that favors short-range over long-range connections seems to be 
consistent with autism? classic cognitive profile? child who excels at 
specific, focused tasks like memorizing streets, but who cannot integrate 
information across different brain areas into higher-order concepts. 
?or example, a child with autism may not understand why a face looks really 
angry, because his visual brain centers and emotional brain centers have less 
cross-talk,? Peters says. ?he brain cannot integrate these areas. It? doing a 
lot with the information locally, but it? not sending it out to the rest of the 
Network analysis? hot emerging branch of cognitive neuroscience?howed a quality 
called ?esilience? in the children with autism?he ability to find multiple ways 
to get from point A to point B through redundant pathways. 
?uch like you can still travel from Boston to Brussels even if London Heathrow 
is shut down, by going through New York? JFK airport for example, information 
can continue to be transferred between two regions of the brain of children 
with autism,? says Taquet. ?n such a network, no hub plays a specific role, and 
traffic may flow along many redundant routes.? 
This quality of redundancy is consistent with cellular and molecular evidence 
for decreased ?runing? of brain connections in autism. While it may be good for 
an airline, it may indicate a brain that responds in the same way to many 
different kinds of situations and is less able to focus on the stimuli that are 
most important. 
?t? a simpler, less specialized network that? more rigid, less able to respond 
to stimulation from the environment,? says Peters. 
The study showed that both groups of children with tuberous sclerosis complex 
had reduced connectivity overall, but only those who also had autism had the 
pattern of increased short-range versus long-range connections (See image). 
Under a recently announced NIH Autism Center of Excellence Grant, Peters and 
his colleagues will repeat the analysis as part of a multicenter study, taking 
EEG recordings prospectively under uniform conditions. 
The current study builds on recent work by Peters, Sahin and colleagues, which 
imaged nerve fibers in autistic patients and showed structural abnormalities in 
brain connectivity. Other recent work at Boston Children?, led by Frank Duffy, 
PhD, of Neurology, looked at ?oherence,? or the degree of synchrony between any 
two given EEG signals, and found altered connectivity between brain regions in 
children with autism. 
Yet another recent study, led by Boston Children? informatics researcher 
William Bosl, PhD, and Charles A. Nelson, PhD, research director of the 
Developmental Medicine Center, looked at the degree of randomness in EEG 
signals, an indirect indicator of connectivity, and found patterns that 
distinguished infants at increased risk for autism from controls. doug rogers  
I offer it because I immediately thought of the idea he proposes about 
traveling across America on a single trolley ticket. Metaphorically it is 
exactly what is proposed here. 

Dr. Roger B Clough NIST (ret.) [1/1/2000] 
See my Leibniz site at

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