Alterations in hub organization in the white matter structural network in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: A 2-year follow-up study.

Autism Res. 2018 Aug 16;:

Authors: Qian L, Wang Y, Chu K, Li Y, Xiao C, Xiao T, Xiao X, Qiu T, Xiao Y, Fang H, Ke X

Little is currently known about the longitudinal developmental patterns of hubs in the whole-brain white matter (WM) structural networks among toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study utilized diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and deterministic tractography to map the WM structural networks in 37 ASD toddlers and 27 age-, gender- and developmental quotient-matched controls with developmental delay (DD) toddlers aged 2-3 years old at baseline (Time 1) and at 2-year follow-up (Time 2). Furthermore, graph-theoretical methods were applied to investigate alterations in the network hubs in these patients at the two time points. The results showed that after 2 years, 17 hubs were identified in the ASD subjects compared to the controls, including 13 hubs that had not changed from baseline and 4 hubs that were newly identified. In addition, alterations in the properties of the hubs of the right middle frontal gyrus, right insula, left median cingulate gyri, and bilateral precuneus were significantly correlated with alterations in the behavioral data for ASD patients. These results indicated that at the stage of 2-5 years of age, ASD children showed distributions of network hubs that were relatively stable, with minor differences. Abnormal developmental patterns in the five areas mentioned above in ASD may contribute to abnormalities in the social and nonsocial characteristics of this disorder.
LAY SUMMARY: This work studied the longitudinal developmental patterns of hubs in the whole-brain white matter (WM) structural network among toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The findings of this study could have implications for understanding how the abnormalities in hub organization in ASD account for behavioral deficits in patients and may provide potential biomarkers for disease diagnosis and the subsequent monitoring of progression and treatment effects for patients with ASD.

PMID: 30114344 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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