Evidence from neuroimaging and neurobiological studies suggests that abnormalities in cortical-cortical connectivity involving both local and long-distance scales may be related to autism. The present study analyzed the microstructural integrity of the long-range connectivity related to social cognition and language processing with diffusion tractography among adolescents with autism compared with neurotypical adolescents. Tract-specific analyses were used to study the long-range connectivity responsible for integrating social cognition and language processing. Specifically, three pairs of association fibers and three portions of callosal fiber tracts were analyzed. Generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA) values were measured along individual targeted fiber tracts to investigate alterations in microstructure integrity. The asymmetry patterns were also assessed in three pairs of association fibers. In neurotypical participants, we found a consistent leftward asymmetry in three pairs of association fibers. However, adolescents with autism did not demonstrate such asymmetry. Moreover, adolescents with autism had significantly lower mean GFA in three callosal fiber tracts than neurotypical participants. The loss of leftward asymmetry and reduction of interhemispheric connection in adolescents with autism suggest alterations of the long-range connectivity involved in social cognition and language processing. Our results warrant further investigation by combining developmental and neurocognitive data.
ASJC Scopus subject areas