Presentation Abstract

Program#/Poster#: 49.19/P18
Presentation Title: Visuomotor connectivity relates to symptom severity in children with autism
Location: Halls B-H
Presentation time: Saturday, Nov 09, 2013, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Topic: ++C.07.c. Autism: Physiology and systems
Authors: *M. NEBEL1,2, A. ELOYAN3, C. NETTLES2, K. SWEENEY2, A. CHOE1, A. BARBER1,2, B. CAFFO3, J. PEKAR1,2, S. MOSTOFSKY1,2;
1Johns Hopkins Sch. of Med., Baltimore, MD; 2Kennedy Krieger Inst., Baltimore, MD; 3Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Sch. of Publ. Hlth., Baltimore, MD
Abstract: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects many areas of development, including motor skills. Research suggests that motor skill and communication/social skill learning may share a common brain-basis. ASD-associated deficits in imitating others’ actions likely impact motor and social skill acquisition; however, it is unclear what brain mechanisms contribute to these deficits. This study investigated the relationship between visuomotor functional connectivity (FC) and both imitation ability and autistic trait severity in children with ASD.
Resting state fMRI scans were collected from 80 children (40 ASD and 40 typically-developing [TD]). All 80 scans were combined to estimate visual and motor networks using independent component analysis (ICA). Participant-specific spatial maps and timecourses were back-reconstructed from the group-level components. To estimate visuomotor FC, the correlation between each pair of participant-specific motor and visual network timecourses was computed. Brain-behavior relationships were assessed by regressing visuomotor FC with imitation and autistic trait severity scores. Imitation ability was assessed using the Florida Apraxia Battery; scores reflected the number of imitative gestures performed correctly. Autistic trait severity was assessed using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) questionnaire; higher scores indicated more severe autistic traits.
Two motor networks (dorsal [DM] and ventral [VM]) and three visual networks were identified. Two visual networks included early visual processing areas (BA 17 and 18), while the third (V3) involved higher-order visual areas. In ASDs, both motor networks were more negatively correlated with V3 (DM-V3: -.20, VM-V3: -.12) compared to TDs (DM-V3: -.10, VM-V3: .08, p < .05 for both). No other motor-visual FC differences were observed. In TDs, stronger VM-V3 FC was associated with better imitation (R=.354, p=.007) and better overall performance of gestures on praxis examination (R=.414, p=.002). No relationship was observed between visuomotor FC and imitation ability in ASDs. However, negative relationships were observed between total SRS score and both DM-V3 and VM-V3 FC (R=-.43, p=.008; R=-.46, p=.004, respectively).
In summary, we observed FC differences between motor and higher-order visual areas in ASDs compared to TDs. Although visuomotor FC was related to imitation/praxis performance in TDs, a similar relationship was not observed in ASDs, possibly because ASDs rely on alternative circuitry. Additionally, ASDs with more abnormal motor-visual FC displayed more severe ASD traits, further supporting a link between ASD motor and social skill deficits.
Disclosures:  M. Nebel: None. A. Eloyan: None. C. Nettles: None. K. Sweeney: None. A. Choe: None. A. Barber: None. B. Caffo: None. J. Pekar: F. Consulting Fees (e.g., advisory boards); Philips Healthcare. S. Mostofsky: None.
Keyword(s): AUTISM
FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY
MOVEMENT
Support: Autism Speaks
NBIB Grant P41 EB015908
NBIB Grant R01 EB012547
NINDS Grant R01 NS060910
NINDS Grant R01 NS048527




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