Brain dynamics underlie flexible cognition and behavior, yet little is known regarding this relationship in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We examined time-varying changes in functional co-activation patterns (CAPs) across rest and task-evoked brain states to characterize differences between children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children and identify relationships with severity of social behaviors and restricted and repetitive behaviors.
17 children with ASD and 27 TD children ages 7-12 completed a resting-state fMRI scan and four runs of a non-cued attention switching task. Metrics indexing brain dynamics were generated from dynamic CAPs computed across three major large-scale brain networks: midcingulo-insular (M-CIN), medial frontoparietal (M-FPN), and lateral frontoparietal (L-FPN).
Five time-varying CAPs representing dynamic co-activations among network nodes were identified across rest and task fMRI datasets. Significant Diagnosis × Condition interactions were observed for the dwell time of CAP 3, representing co-activation between nodes of the M-CIN and L-FPN, and the frequency of CAP 1, representing co-activation between nodes of the L-FPN. A significant brain-behavior association between dwell time of CAP 5, representing co-activation between nodes of the M-FPN, and social abilities was also observed across both groups of children.
Analysis of brain co-activation patterns reveals altered dynamics among three core networks in children with ASD, particularly evident during later stages of an attention task. Dimensional analyses demonstrating relationships between M-FPN dwell time and social abilities suggest that metrics of brain dynamics may index individual differences in social cognition and behavior.

Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.