Connections between neighboring groups of brain cells are weaker in individuals with autism than in controls, according to a report published 14 January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is the latest of several studies in the past year to cast doubt on the so-called ‘connectivity theory’ of autism, which broadly says that people with autism have stronger connections between neighboring brain regions and weaker connections between distant regions than controls do.
Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive imaging technique that uses magnetic fields to track rapid changes in brain waves, the new study found that both short- and long-range connections are impaired in autism.
What’s more, the weakest local connections are found in those with the most severe autism symptoms, the study found.
That both short- and long-range connections are weaker in autism makes intuitive sense, says lead investigator Tal Kenet, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
“What always bothered me about the [connectivity] hypothesis was, why would neurons be really bad at long-range but good at it locally?” she says.
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