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      Heterogeneity within Autism Spectrum Disorders: What have We Learned from Neuroimaging Studies?

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          Abstract

          Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) display significant heterogeneity. Although most neuroimaging studies in ASD have been designed to identify commonalities among affected individuals, rather than differences, some studies have explored variation within ASD. There have been two general types of approaches used for this in the neuroimaging literature to date: comparison of subgroups within ASD, and analyses using dimensional measures to link clinical variation to brain differences. This review focuses on structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that have used these approaches to begin to explore heterogeneity between individuals with ASD. Although this type of data is yet sparse, recognition is growing of the limitations of behaviorally defined categorical diagnoses for understanding neurobiology. Study designs that are more informative regarding the sources of heterogeneity in ASD have the potential to improve our understanding of the neurobiological processes underlying ASD.

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          Most cited references 202

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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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            Research domain criteria (RDoC): toward a new classification framework for research on mental disorders.

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              Rett syndrome is caused by mutations in X-linked MECP2, encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein 2.

              Rett syndrome (RTT, MIM 312750) is a progressive neurodevelopmental disorder and one of the most common causes of mental retardation in females, with an incidence of 1 in 10,000-15,000 (ref. 2). Patients with classic RTT appear to develop normally until 6-18 months of age, then gradually lose speech and purposeful hand use, and develop microcephaly, seizures, autism, ataxia, intermittent hyperventilation and stereotypic hand movements. After initial regression, the condition stabilizes and patients usually survive into adulthood. As RTT occurs almost exclusively in females, it has been proposed that RTT is caused by an X-linked dominant mutation with lethality in hemizygous males. Previous exclusion mapping studies using RTT families mapped the locus to Xq28 (refs 6,9,10,11). Using a systematic gene screening approach, we have identified mutations in the gene (MECP2 ) encoding X-linked methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) as the cause of some cases of RTT. MeCP2 selectively binds CpG dinucleotides in the mammalian genome and mediates transcriptional repression through interaction with histone deacetylase and the corepressor SIN3A (refs 12,13). In 5 of 21 sporadic patients, we found 3 de novo missense mutations in the region encoding the highly conserved methyl-binding domain (MBD) as well as a de novo frameshift and a de novo nonsense mutation, both of which disrupt the transcription repression domain (TRD). In two affected half-sisters of a RTT family, we found segregation of an additional missense mutation not detected in their obligate carrier mother. This suggests that the mother is a germline mosaic for this mutation. Our study reports the first disease-causing mutations in RTT and points to abnormal epigenetic regulation as the mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of RTT.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1662-5161
                30 October 2013
                2013
                : 7
                Affiliations
                1School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales , Sydney, NSW, Australia
                2Neuroscience Research Australia , Sydney, NSW, Australia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Andrew Whitehouse, University of Western Australia, Australia

                Reviewed by: Peter G. Enticott, Monash University, Australia; Christine Wu Nordahl, University of California at Davis, USA

                *Correspondence: Rhoshel K. Lenroot, Neuroscience Research Australia, Hospital Road, Randwick, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia e-mail: r.lenroot@ 123456unsw.edu.au

                This article was submitted to the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

                Article
                10.3389/fnhum.2013.00733
                3812662
                Copyright © 2013 Lenroot and Yeung.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 200, Pages: 16, Words: 17367
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Review Article

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