Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication. The anterior insula (AI) participates in emotional salience detection; and the posterior insula (PI) participates in sensorimotor integration and response selection. Meta-analyses have noted insula-based aberrant connectivity within ASD. Given the observed social impairments in ASD and the role of the insula in social information processing (SIP), investigating functional organization of this structure in ASD is important. We investigated differences in resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) using fMRI in male youths with (N=13; mean=14.6 years; range: 10.2–18.0 years) and without ASD (N=17; mean=14.5 years; range: 10.0–17.5 years). With seed-based FC measures, we compared RSFC in insular networks. Hypoconnectivity was observed in ASD (AI-superior frontal gyrus (SFG); AI-thalamus; PI-inferior parietal lobule (IPL); PI-fusiform gyrus (FG); PI-lentiform nucleus/putamen). Using the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) to assess social functioning, regression analyses yielded negative correlations between SCQ scores and RSFC (AI-SFG; AI-thalamus; PI-FG; PI-IPL). Given the insula's connections to limbic regions, and its role in integrating external sensory stimuli with internal states, atypical activity in this structure may be associated with social deficits characterizing ASD. Our results suggest further investigation of the insula's role in SIP across a continuum of social abilities is needed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics (SJ), UMF Autism Funds (SJ, KOL), and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders Training Program T73MC12835 (SMF). Neuroimaging was also supported by National institutues of health (NIH) P41 EB015894 National Institutes of Health and P30 NS076408 grants. We value text editing assistance by Paige Espelien and laboratory assistance from Dan O'Keefe, Patricia Carstedt, and Maria Linn.
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.
- Anterior insula
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Posterior insula
- Resting-state functional connectivity
- Salience network
- Social communication questionnaire