Functional disconnectivity of the medial temporal lobe in Asperger’s syndrome.


BACKGROUND: Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental conditions that may be caused by abnormal connectivity between brain regions constituting neurocognitive networks for specific aspects of social cognition. METHODS: We used three-way multidimensional scaling of regionally parcellated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data to explore the hypothesis of abnormal functional connectivity in people with ASD. Thirteen high-functioning individuals with Asperger's syndrome and 13 healthy volunteers were scanned during incidental processing of fearful facial expressions. RESULTS: Using permutation tests for inference, we found evidence for significant abnormality of functional integration of amygdala and parahippocampal gyrus (p < .05, false discovery rate [FDR] corrected) in people with Asperger's syndrome. There were less salient abnormalities in functional connectivity of anterior cingulate, inferior occipital, and inferior frontal cortex, but there was no significant difference between groups in whole brain functional connectivity. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude there is evidence that functional connectivity of medial temporal lobe structures specifically is abnormal in people with Asperger's syndrome during fearful face processing.