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
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
?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.
http://dougsamu.wordpress.com 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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