Behavioural disorders in autistic kids linked to reduced brain connectivity: Study
Behavioural disorders in kids with autism are linked to reduced brain connectivity, recent findings suggest. According to the study's researchers, disruptive behaviours such as aggression, irritability, and noncompliance are common in children with autism and are among the main reasons for psychiatric treatment and even hospitalization.
Yet, little is known about the biological underpinnings of behavioural problems in children with autism.
As part of the project, researchers used fMRI scans conducted during an emotion perception task to compare the brain activity of autistic children who do and do not exhibit disruptive behaviour. While in the scanner, the children were asked to view pictures of human faces that displayed calm or fearful expressions.
During the task, the researchers found reduced connectivity between the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex -- a pathway critical to the regulation of emotion -- in the brains of children who exhibit disruptive behaviour as compared to the brains of children who do not.
"Reduced amygdala-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex functional connectivity was uniquely associated with disruptive behaviour but not with severity of social deficits or anxiety, suggesting a distinct brain network that could be separate from core autism symptoms," explained Karim Ibrahim, first author of the study published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
According to researchers, this finding points to a brain mechanism of emotion dysregulation in children with autism and offers a potential biomarker for developing targeted treatments for irritability and aggression in autism.