March 1, 2021

Brain mapping across 16 autism mouse models reveals a spectrum of functional connectivity subtypes

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by substantial, yet highly heterogeneous abnormalities in functional brain connectivity. However, the origin and significance of this phenomenon remain unclear. To unravel ASD connectopathy and relate it to underlying etiological heterogeneity, we carried out a bi-center cross-etiological investigation of fMRI-based connectivity in the mouse, in which specific ASD-relevant mutations can be isolated and modelled minimizing environmental contributions. By performing brain-wide connectivity mapping across 16 mouse mutants, we show that different ASD-associated etiologies cause a broad spectrum of connectional abnormalities in which diverse, often diverging, connectivity signatures are recognizable. Despite this heterogeneity, the identified connectivity alterations could be classified into four subtypes characterized by discrete signatures of network dysfunction. Our findings show that etiological variability is a key determinant of connectivity heterogeneity in ASD, hence reconciling conflicting findings in clinical populations. The identification of etiologically-relevant connectivity subtypes could improve diagnostic label accuracy in the non-syndromic ASD population and paves the way for personalized treatment approaches.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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