Research Update: Early alterations of social brain networks in young children with autism

In this study, the researchers were able to suggest that there are “frequency specific alterations in the driving of information flow from brain areas implicated in social information processing during the viewing of naturalistic dynamic social images in toddlers and preschool with ASD” and that these occur in the early stages of ASD. These findings support the clinical experience of OT’s and others doing ASI with this client group, that early intervention is critical. The study continues to recommend further studies into social orienting skills as a way of perhaps remediating social brain development while neural plasticity is most optimal.

Wouldn’t it be great if the results we see in clinical practice of ASI, helping children better orientate, attend and respond to sensory input including social cues, studied as a possible intervention in response to this study?

Here is a copy of the abstract and link to the full article.

Social impairments are a hallmark of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but empirical evidence for early brain network alterations in response to social stimuli is scant in ASD. We recorded the gaze patterns and brain activity of toddlers with ASD and their typically developing peers while they explored dynamic social scenes. Directed functional connectivity analyses based on electrical source imaging revealed frequency specific network atypicalities in the theta and alpha frequency bands, manifesting as alterations in both the driving and the connections from key nodes of the social brain associated with autism. Analyses of brain-behavioural relationships within the ASD group suggested that compensatory mechanisms from dorsomedial frontal, inferior temporal and insular cortical regions were associated with less atypical gaze patterns and lower clinical impairment. Our results provide strong evidence that directed functional connectivity alterations of social brain networks is a core component of atypical brain development at early stages of ASD.

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