Molecular Autism (2020-11-01)

Common and unique multimodal covarying patterns in autism spectrum disorder subtypes

  • Shile Qi,
  • Robin Morris,
  • Jessica A. Turner,
  • Zening Fu,
  • Rongtao Jiang,
  • Thomas P. Deramus,
  • Dongmei Zhi,
  • Vince D. Calhoun,
  • Jing Sui

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 15


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Abstract Background The heterogeneity inherent in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents a substantial challenge to diagnosis and precision treatment. Heterogeneity across biological etiologies, genetics, neural systems, neurocognitive attributes and clinical subtypes or phenotypes has been observed across individuals with ASD. Methods In this study, we aim to investigate the heterogeneity in ASD from a multimodal brain imaging perspective. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) was used as a reference to guide functional and structural MRI fusion. DSM-IV-TR diagnosed Asperger’s disorder (n = 79), pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS] (n = 58) and Autistic disorder (n = 92) from ABIDE II were used as discovery cohort, and ABIDE I (n = 400) was used for replication. Results Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and superior/middle temporal cortex are the primary common functional–structural covarying cortical brain areas shared among Asperger’s, PDD-NOS and Autistic subgroups. Key differences among the three subtypes are negative functional features within subcortical brain areas, including negative putamen–parahippocampus fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) unique to the Asperger’s subtype; negative fALFF in anterior cingulate cortex unique to PDD-NOS subtype; and negative thalamus–amygdala–caudate fALFF unique to the Autistic subtype. Furthermore, each subtype-specific brain pattern is correlated with different ADOS subdomains, with social interaction as the common subdomain. The identified subtype-specific patterns are only predictive for ASD symptoms manifested in the corresponding subtypes, but not the other subtypes. Conclusions Although ASD has a common neural basis with core deficits linked to social interaction, each ASD subtype is strongly linked to unique brain systems and subdomain symptoms, which may help to better understand the underlying mechanisms of ASD heterogeneity from a multimodal neuroimaging perspective. Limitations This study is male based, which cannot be generalized to the female or the general ASD population.