Default mode-visual network hypoconnectivity in an autism subtype with pronounced social visual engagement difficulties.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.7554/elife.47427
Social visual engagement difficulties are hallmark early signs of autism (ASD) and are easily quantified using eye tracking methods. However, it is unclear how these difficulties are linked to atypical early functional brain organization in ASD. With resting state fMRI data in a large sample of ASD toddlers and other non-ASD comparison groups, we find ASD-related functional hypoconnnectivity between 'social brain' circuitry such as the default mode network (DMN) and visual and attention networks. An eye tracking-identified ASD subtype with pronounced early social visual engagement difficulties (GeoPref ASD) is characterized by marked DMN-occipito-temporal cortex (OTC) hypoconnectivity. Increased DMN-OTC hypoconnectivity is also related to increased severity of social-communication difficulties, but only in GeoPref ASD. Early and pronounced social-visual circuit hypoconnectivity is a key underlying neurobiological feature describing GeoPref ASD and may be critical for future social-communicative development and represent new treatment targets for early intervention in these individuals.