Background: Recent neuroimaging studies of autism have indicated reduced functional connectivity during both cognitive tasks and rest. These data suggest long-range connectivity may be compromised in this disorder, and current neurological theories of autism contend disrupted inter-regional interactions may be an underlying mechanism explaining behavioral symptomatology. However, it is unclear whether deficient neuronal communication is attributable to fewer long-range tracts or more of a local deficit in neural circuitry. This study examines the integrity of local circuitry by focusing on gamma band activity in auditory cortices of children and adolescents with autism. Methods: Ten children and adolescents with autism and 10 matched controls participated. Both groups listened to 500 ms duration monaural click trains with a 25 ms inter-click interval, as magnetoencephalography was acquired from the contralateral hemisphere. To estimate 40 Hz spectral power density, we performed time-frequency decomposition of the single-trial magnetic steady-state response data using complex demodulation. Results: Children and adolescents with autism exhibited significantly reduced left hemispheric 40 Hz power from 200-500 ms post-stimulus onset. In contrast, no significant between group differences were observed for right hemispheric cortices. Conclusions: The production and/or maintenance of left hemispheric gamma oscillations appeared abnormal in participants with autism. We interpret these data as indicating that in autism, particular brain regions may be unable to generate the high-frequency activity likely necessary for binding and other forms of inter-regional interactions. These findings augment connectivity theories of autism with novel evidence that aberrations in local circuitry could underlie putative deficiencies in long-range neural communication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biological Psychiatry