The anterior insular cortex (AI), which is a part of the “salience network,” is critically involved during visual awareness, multisensory perception, and social and emotional processing, among other functions. In children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), evidence has suggested aberrant functional connectivity (fc) of AI compared to typically developing (TD) peers. While recent studies have primarily focused on the functional connections between salience and social networks, much less is known about connectivity between AI and primary sensory regions, including visual areas, and how these patterns may be linked to autism symptomatology.
The current investigation implemented functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine resting state fc patterns of salience and visual networks in children and adolescents with ASDs compared to TD controls, and to relate them to behavioral measures RESULTS: Functional underconnectivity was found in the ASD group between left AI and bilateral visual cortices. Moreover, in an ASD subgroup with more atypical visual sensory profiles, functional connectivity was positively correlated with abnormal social motivational responsivity.
Findings of reduced fc between salience and visual networks in ASDs potentially suggest deficient selection of salient information. Moreover, in children with ASDs who show strongly atypical visual sensory profiles, connectivity at seemingly more neurotypical levels may be paradoxically associated with greater impairment of social motivation.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.