This research may support the patterns we see in research and practice when testing children and teens with Autism with the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test.
Martínez, K. et al. (2020). Sensory-to-Cognitive Systems Integration Is Associated With Clinical Severity in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 59(3), 422–433. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2019.05.033
Impaired multisensory integration in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may arise from functional dysconnectivity among brain systems. Our study examines the functional connectivity integration between primary modal sensory regions and heteromodal processing cortex in ASD, and whether abnormalities in network integration relate to clinical severity.
We studied a sample of 55 high-functioning ASD and 64 healthy control (HC) male children and adolescents (total n = 119, age range 7−18 years). Stepwise functional connectivity analysis (SFC) was applied to resting state functional magnetic resonance images (rsfMRI) to characterize the connectivity paths that link primary sensory cortices to higher-order brain cognitive functional circuits and to relate alterations in functional connectivity integration with three clinical scales: Social Communication Questionnaire, Social Responsiveness Scale, and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.
HC displayed typical functional connectivity transitions from primary sensory systems to association areas, but the ASD group showed altered patterns of multimodal sensory integration to heteromodal systems. Specifically, compared to the HC group, the ASD group showed the following: (1) hyperconnectivity in the visual cortex at initial link step distances; (2) hyperconnectivity between sensory unimodal regions and regions of the default mode network; and (3) hypoconnectivity between sensory unimodal regions and areas of the fronto-parietal and attentional networks. These patterns of hyper- and hypoconnectivity were associated with increased clinical severity in ASD.
Networkwise reorganization in high-functioning ASD individuals affects strategic regions of unimodal-to-heteromodal cortical integration predicting clinical severity. In addition, SFC analysis appears to be a promising approach for studying the neural pathophysiology of multisensory integration deficits in ASD.