This past year we have continued to evaluate the behavioral consequences, and associated neural characteristics, of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The presence of intense and idiosyncratic interests and hobbies has long been recognized as one of the defining clinical features of ASD. We documented this important clinical characteristic in our high-functioning group of ASD subjects, relative to age and IQ matched control subjects. However, contrary to commonly held beliefs, the interests of our subjects were not abnormally restricted in number. Rather, it was the intensity with which they pursued these interests and hobbies, rather than their total number, that was most strongly related to other ASD symptoms such repetitive behaviors and certain aspects of social functioning. Using MRI, our structural brain imaging studies have continued to document abnormally thin cortex, as well as increased cortical folding or gyrification, in our ASD subjects relative to matched control subjects. These findings are consistent with an ever-growing literature on cortical atypicalities in ASD. We have also continued to document the functional consequences of these atypicalities. In a series of studies using functional MRI, we found that the neural circuitry associated with perceiving and understanding social interactions showed a lack of category-specificity in ASD. Specifically, brain regions that typically respond when viewing social, relative to mechanical interactions, responded equally strong to both types of interactions in our high-functioning ASD individuals. One interpretation of this finding is that ASD may be characterized by deficient neural connectivity between brain regions comprising specific processing networks or circuits. We have obtained additional support of this possibility from studies evaluating higher-order cognitive abilities such verbal fluency, as well as study of lower-order functions such as motion perception. Thus, communication between the different brain regions that comprise a processing network may be compromised in autism and related developmental disorders. We have also taken advantage of the ability of fMRI to record very slowly fluctuating neural signals during task-free or resting states to provide a surrogate measure of the strength of the connections between spatially distinct brain regions comprising specific processing circuits. These resting-state data have proven to be particularly useful for comparing clinical patient groups because they are easy to obtain and are not subject to group differences in performance that can confound the interpretation of task-based neuroimaging data. However, the analysis of these data is fraught with a problems and pitfalls that have not been fully appreciated or explored. To help remedy this situation, we have published several papers that describe these difficulties in detail and offer potential solutions.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
Zip Code
Ratto, Allison B; Kenworthy, Lauren; Yerys, Benjamin E et al. (2018) What About the Girls? Sex-Based Differences in Autistic Traits and Adaptive Skills. J Autism Dev Disord 48:1698-1711
Crutcher, Jason; Martin, Alex; Wallace, Gregory L (2018) Dissociations in the neural substrates of language and social functioning in autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res 11:1175-1186
Power, Jonathan D; Plitt, Mark; Gotts, Stephen J et al. (2018) Ridding fMRI data of motion-related influences: Removal of signals with distinct spatial and physical bases in multiecho data. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E2105-E2114
Avery, Jason A; Ingeholm, John E; Wohltjen, Sophie et al. (2018) Neural correlates of taste reactivity in autism spectrum disorder. Neuroimage Clin 19:38-46
Ghuman, Avniel Singh; van den Honert, Rebecca N; Huppert, Theodore J et al. (2017) Aberrant Oscillatory Synchrony Is Biased Toward Specific Frequencies and Processing Domains in the Autistic Brain. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging 2:245-252
Power, Jonathan D (2017) A simple but useful way to assess fMRI scan qualities. Neuroimage 154:150-158
Wallace, Gregory L; Dudley, Katerina; Anthony, Laura et al. (2017) Divergence of Age-Related Differences in Social-Communication: Improvements for Typically Developing Youth but Declines for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 47:472-479
Power, Jonathan D; Plitt, Mark; Laumann, Timothy O et al. (2017) Sources and implications of whole-brain fMRI signals in humans. Neuroimage 146:609-625
Ramot, Michal; Kimmich, Sara; Gonzalez-Castillo, Javier et al. (2017) Direct modulation of aberrant brain network connectivity through real-time NeuroFeedback. Elife 6:
White, Emily I; Wallace, Gregory L; Bascom, Julia et al. (2017) Sex differences in parent-reported executive functioning and adaptive behavior in children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res 10:1653-1662

Showing the most recent 10 out of 45 publications