Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized neurophysiologically by, among other things, functional connectivity abnormalities in the brain. Recent evidence suggests that the nature of these functional connectivity abnormalities might not be uniform throughout maturation. Comparing between adolescents and young adults (ages 14–21) with ASD and age- and IQ-matched typically developing (TD) individuals, we previously documented, using magnetoencephalography (MEG) data, that local functional connectivity in the fusiform face areas (FFA) and long-range functional connectivity between FFA and three higher order cortical areas were all reduced in ASD. Given the findings on abnormal maturation trajectories in ASD, we tested whether these results extend to preadolescent children (ages 7–13). We found that both local and long-range functional connectivity were in fact normal in this younger age group in ASD. Combining the two age groups, we found that local and long-range functional connectivity measures were positively correlated with age in TD, but negatively correlated with age in ASD. Last, we showed that local functional connectivity was the primary feature in predicting age in ASD group, but not in the TD group. Furthermore, local functional connectivity was only correlated with ASD severity in the older group. These results suggest that the direction of maturation of functional connectivity for processing of faces from childhood to young adulthood is itself abnormal in ASD, and that during the processing of faces, these trajectory abnormalities are more pronounced for local functional connectivity measures than they are for long-range functional connectivity measures.
- face processing
- phase amplitude coupling