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      A stable pattern of EEG spectral coherence distinguishes children with autism from neuro-typical controls - a large case control study

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          Abstract

          Background

          The autism rate has recently increased to 1 in 100 children. Genetic studies demonstrate poorly understood complexity. Environmental factors apparently also play a role. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies demonstrate increased brain sizes and altered connectivity. Electroencephalogram (EEG) coherence studies confirm connectivity changes. However, genetic-, MRI- and/or EEG-based diagnostic tests are not yet available. The varied study results likely reflect methodological and population differences, small samples and, for EEG, lack of attention to group-specific artifact.

          Methods

          Of the 1,304 subjects who participated in this study, with ages ranging from 1 to 18 years old and assessed with comparable EEG studies, 463 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); 571 children were neuro-typical controls (C). After artifact management, principal components analysis (PCA) identified EEG spectral coherence factors with corresponding loading patterns. The 2- to 12-year-old subsample consisted of 430 ASD- and 554 C-group subjects (n = 984). Discriminant function analysis (DFA) determined the spectral coherence factors' discrimination success for the two groups. Loading patterns on the DFA-selected coherence factors described ASD-specific coherence differences when compared to controls.

          Results

          Total sample PCA of coherence data identified 40 factors which explained 50.8% of the total population variance. For the 2- to 12-year-olds, the 40 factors showed highly significant group differences ( P < 0.0001). Ten randomly generated split half replications demonstrated high-average classification success (C, 88.5%; ASD, 86.0%). Still higher success was obtained in the more restricted age sub-samples using the jackknifing technique: 2- to 4-year-olds (C, 90.6%; ASD, 98.1%); 4- to 6-year-olds (C, 90.9%; ASD 99.1%); and 6- to 12-year-olds (C, 98.7%; ASD, 93.9%). Coherence loadings demonstrated reduced short-distance and reduced, as well as increased, long-distance coherences for the ASD-groups, when compared to the controls. Average spectral loading per factor was wide (10.1 Hz).

          Conclusions

          Classification success suggests a stable coherence loading pattern that differentiates ASD- from C-group subjects. This might constitute an EEG coherence-based phenotype of childhood autism. The predominantly reduced short-distance coherences may indicate poor local network function. The increased long-distance coherences may represent compensatory processes or reduced neural pruning. The wide average spectral range of factor loadings may suggest over-damped neural networks.

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          Most cited references 59

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          The autism diagnostic observation schedule-generic: a standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism.

          The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic (ADOS-G) is a semistructured, standardized assessment of social interaction, communication, play, and imaginative use of materials for individuals suspected of having autism spectrum disorders. The observational schedule consists of four 30-minute modules, each designed to be administered to different individuals according to their level of expressive language. Psychometric data are presented for 223 children and adults with Autistic Disorder (autism), Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) or nonspectrum diagnoses. Within each module, diagnostic groups were equivalent on expressive language level. Results indicate substantial interrater and test-retest reliability for individual items, excellent interrater reliability within domains and excellent internal consistency. Comparisons of means indicated consistent differentiation of autism and PDDNOS from nonspectrum individuals, with some, but less consistent, differentiation of autism from PDDNOS. A priori operationalization of DSM-IV/ICD-10 criteria, factor analyses, and ROC curves were used to generate diagnostic algorithms with thresholds set for autism and broader autism spectrum/PDD. Algorithm sensitivities and specificities for autism and PDDNOS relative to nonspectrum disorders were excellent, with moderate differentiation of autism from PDDNOS.
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            The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in factor analysis

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              Transcriptomic Analysis of Autistic Brain Reveals Convergent Molecular Pathology

              Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common, highly heritable neuro-developmental condition characterized by marked genetic heterogeneity 1–3 . Thus, a fundamental question is whether autism represents an etiologically heterogeneous disorder in which the myriad genetic or environmental risk factors perturb common underlying molecular pathways in the brain 4 . Here, we demonstrate consistent differences in transcriptome organization between autistic and normal brain by gene co-expression network analysis. Remarkably, regional patterns of gene expression that typically distinguish frontal and temporal cortex are significantly attenuated in the ASD brain, suggesting abnormalities in cortical patterning. We further identify discrete modules of co-expressed genes associated with autism: a neuronal module enriched for known autism susceptibility genes, including the neuronal specific splicing factor A2BP1/FOX1, and a module enriched for immune genes and glial markers. Using high-throughput RNA-sequencing we demonstrate dysregulated splicing of A2BP1-dependent alternative exons in ASD brain. Moreover, using a published autism GWAS dataset, we show that the neuronal module is enriched for genetically associated variants, providing independent support for the causal involvement of these genes in autism. In contrast, the immune-glial module showed no enrichment for autism GWAS signals, indicating a non-genetic etiology for this process. Collectively, our results provide strong evidence for convergent molecular abnormalities in ASD, and implicate transcriptional and splicing dysregulation as underlying mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction in this disorder.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Med
                BMC Med
                BMC Medicine
                BioMed Central
                1741-7015
                2012
                26 June 2012
                : 10
                : 64
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Neurology, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry(Psychology), Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, 320 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA
                Article
                1741-7015-10-64
                10.1186/1741-7015-10-64
                3391175
                22730909
                Copyright ©2012 Duffy and Als; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Research Article

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