Brain development in autism

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Chapter 10 endnote 44, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

...autism is characterized as a neurodevelopmental disorder that is extremely variable in its genetics, neurobiology, and symptoms. I speculate that the problems begin with bodybudgeting circuitry because it’s present at birth, and all statistical learning is grounded in body-budget regulation (chapters 4 and 5). Alterations in the circuitry will change the trajectory of brain development.

Infants are not born with a fully formed interoceptive network (although one major connection between two hubs of the default mode portion of the network is in place in utero).[1] The human fetal brain is highly modular and becomes less so with development.[1] Furthermore, connectivity between medial brain regions (many of which have body-budgeting functions) is more developed than connectivity of the lateral regions (which become better connected with development).[1] In this way, the interoceptive network's internal wiring, as well as its connections to other brain networks, continually develops with experience during the long period of childhood and adolescence[2] (although it's major connections appear to develop sometime during the first few years of life).[3]

Autism is associated with changes in connectivity within our pair of networks, and particularly in rich club hub regions that sit inside several different networks.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

An active area of research is studying the various ways in which typical brain development trajectories become altered to produce the variety of structural and connectional differences observed in autistic brains. A small alteration at one point in time (e.g., reduced body-budgeting regulation from a caregiver due to, say, a infant's lack of interest in the social world) could nudge the brain into a different developmental trajectory with a cascade of anatomical consequences.

Notes on the Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Van den Heuvel, Marion I. and Moriah E. Thomason. 2016. "Functional connectivity of the human brain in utero." Trends in Cognitive Sciences,
  2. For a discussion of this long developmental period from an evolutionary perspective, see Finlay, Barb, and J. Uchiyama. 2016. "The timing of brain and body maturation, early experience and the human social niche." In Evolution of Nervous Systems, second edition, volume 3, edited by Jon H. Kaas, 123-148. Elsevier: Oxford University Press.
  3. Wei Gao, Weili Lin, Karen Grewen, John H Gilmore. 2016. "Functional Connectivity of the Infant Human Brain: Plastic and Modifiable." Neuroscientist, February 29. DOI 10.1177/1073858416635986.
  4. Chen, Colleen P., Christopher L. Keown, Afrooz Jahedi, Aarti Nair, Mark E. Pflieger, Barbara A. Bailey, and Ralph-Axel Müller. 2015. "Diagnostic classification of intrinsic functional connectivity highlights somatosensory, default mode, and visual regions in autism." NeuroImage: Clinical 8: 238-245.
  5. Doyle‐Thomas, Krissy AR, Wayne Lee, Nicholas EV Foster, Ana Tryfon, Tia Ouimet, Krista L. Hyde, Alan C. Evans, John Lewis, Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, and Evdokia Anagnostou. 2015. "Atypical functional brain connectivity during rest in autism spectrum disorders." Annals of Neurology 77 (5): 866-876.
  6. Kana, Rajesh. K., Lucina Q. Uddin, Tal Kenet, Diane Chugani, and Ralph-Axel Müller. 2014. "Brain connectivity in autism." Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8 (June): 5-8.
  7. Kennedy, Daniel P., and Eric Courchesne. 2008. "The intrinsic functional organization of the brain is altered in autism." Neuroimage 39 (4): 1877-1885.
  8. Kleinhans, Natalia M., Todd Richards, Kurt Weaver, L. Clark Johnson, Jessica Greenson, Geraldine Dawson, and Elizabeth Aylward. 2010. "Association between amygdala response to emotional faces and social anxiety in autism spectrum disorders." Neuropsychologia 48 (12): 3665-3670.
  9. Lynch, Charles J., Lucina Q. Uddin, Kaustubh Supekar, Amirah Khouzam, Jennifer Phillips, and Vinod Menon. 2013. "Default mode network in childhood autism: posteromedial cortex heterogeneity and relationship with social deficits." Biological Psychiatry 74 (3): 212-219.
  10. Murdaugh, Donna L., Svetlana V. Shinkareva, Hrishikesh R. Deshpande, Jing Wang, Mark R. Pennick, and Rajesh K. Kana. 2012. "Differential deactivation during mentalizing and classification of autism based on default mode network connectivity." PloS One 7 (11): e50064.
  11. Schulte-Rüther, Martin, Ellen Greimel, Hans J. Markowitsch, Inge Kamp-Becker, Helmut Remschmidt, Gereon R. Fink, and Martina Piefke. 2011. "Dysfunctions in brain networks supporting empathy: an fMRI study in adults with autism spectrum disorders." Social Neuroscience 6 (1): 1-21.
  12. Uddin, Lucina Q., Kaustubh Supekar, Charles J. Lynch, Amirah Khouzam, Jennifer Phillips, Carl Feinstein, Srikanth Ryali, and Vinod Menon. 2013. "Salience network–based classification and prediction of symptom severity in children with autism." JAMA Psychiatry 70 (8): 869-879.
  13. Uddin, Lucina Q., Kaustubh Supekar, and Vinod Menon. 2013. "Reconceptualizing functional brain connectivity in autism from a developmental perspective." Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7, doi 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00458.
  14. Elton, Amanda, Adriana Di Martino, Heather Cody Hazlett, and Wei Gao. 2016. "Neural connectivity evidence for a categorical-dimensional hybrid model of autism spectrum disorder." Biological Psychiatry 80 (2): 120-128.