Exploring the heterogeneity of neural social indices for genetically distinct etiologies of autism

Caitlin M. Hudac, Holly A.F. Stessman, Trent D. DesChamps, Anna Kresse, Susan Faja, Emily Neuhaus, Sara Jane Webb, Evan E. Eichler, Raphael A. Bernier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous disorder. Promising initiatives utilizing interdisciplinary characterization of ASD suggest phenotypic subtypes related to specific likely gene-disrupting mutations (LGDMs). However, the role of functionally associated LGDMs in the neural social phenotype is unknown. Methods: In this study of 26 children with ASD (n = 13 with an LGDM) and 13 control children, we characterized patterns of mu attenuation and habituation as children watched videos containing social and nonsocial motions during electroencephalography acquisition. Results: Diagnostic comparisons were consistent with prior work suggesting aberrant mu attenuation in ASD within the upper mu band (10-12 Hz), but typical patterns within the lower mu band (8-10 Hz). Preliminary exploration indicated distinct social sensitization patterns (i.e., increasing mu attenuation for social motion) for children with an LGDM that is primarily expressed during embryonic development. In contrast, children with an LGDM primarily expressed post-embryonic development exhibited stable typical patterns of lower mu attenuation. Neural social indices were associated with social responsiveness, but not cognition. Conclusions: These findings suggest unique neurophysiological profiles for certain genetic etiologies of ASD, further clarifying possible genetic functional subtypes of ASD and providing insight into mechanisms for targeted treatment approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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