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Original Investigation
September 2013

Pervasive Rightward Asymmetry Shifts of Functional Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Author Affiliations
  • 1Brain Development Imaging Laboratory, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 3Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(9):975-982. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.382

Importance  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain-based pervasive developmental disorder, which—by growing consensus—is associated with abnormal organization of functional networks. Several previous studies of ASD have indicated atypical hemispheric asymmetries for language.

Objective  To examine the asymmetry of functional networks using a data-driven approach for a comprehensive investigation of hemispheric asymmetry in ASD.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional study involved 24 children with ASD and 26 matched typically developing children at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego. Data from 10 children had to be excluded for excessive motion, resulting in final samples of 20 participants per group.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Asymmetry indices of functional networks identified from independent component analysis of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data.

Results  Temporal concatenation independent component analysis, performed separately in each group, showed significant group differences in asymmetry indices for 10 out of 17 functional networks. Without exception, these networks (visual, auditory, motor, executive, language, and attentional) showed atypical rightward asymmetry shifts in the ASD group.

Conclusions and Relevance  Atypical rightward asymmetry may be a pervasive feature of functional brain organization in ASD, affecting sensorimotor, as well as higher cognitive, domains.