Neuroimaging studies can shed light on the neurobiological underpinnings of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Studies of the resting brain have shown both altered baseline metabolism from PET/SPECT and altered functional connectivity (FC) of intrinsic brain networks based on resting-state fMRI. To date, however, no study has investigated these two physiological parameters of resting brain function jointly, or explored the relationship between these measures and ASD symptom severity.
Here, we used pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling with 3D background-suppressed GRASE to assess resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) and FC in 17 youth with ASD and 22 matched typically developing (TD) children.
A pattern of altered resting perfusion was found in ASD versus TD children including frontotemporal hyperperfusion and hypoperfusion in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. We found increased local FC in the anterior module of the default mode network (DMN) accompanied by decreased CBF in the same area. In our cohort, both alterations were associated with greater social impairments as assessed with the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-total T scores). While FC was correlated with CBF in TD children, this association between FC and baseline perfusion was disrupted in children with ASD. Furthermore, there was reduced long-range FC between anterior and posterior modules of the DMN in children with ASD.