Research Finds Differences in Brain Connectivity in Individuals with Autism Can Predict Future Adaptive and Social Behavioral Outcomes
November 19, 2015
Washington, DC—A new study shows that differences in brain connectivity in individuals with autism can predict future adaptive and social behaviors. Connectivity, or how different parts of the brain communicate with each other, is the most consistent abnormality in brain activity seen in autism.
“Brains are made up of networks that work together to help us do things like talk or read a social cue. This study found that differences in brain connectivity in individuals with autism can predict future outcomes in how they succeed in real-world settings which may help us better target treatment for these individuals in the future,” said Lauren Kenworthy, PhD, Director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Health System and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“This is an exciting breakthrough as we continue to better understand how to help individuals with autism succeed in life,” Dr. Kenworthy said. “We already knew there were differences in the brains of people with autism, but now we know there’s a connection between that and real-world behaviors.”
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by the National Institute of Mental Health with Dr. Kenworthy playing a key role. The team measured resting-state brain connectivity via MRI in 31 males with autism, who were an average age of 18, and followed up with assessments of adaptive and social behaviors one year after the initial brain scan.
Forty-four percent of the group studied experienced significant changes in their adaptive behaviors over a one-year period. Adaptive behaviors are life skills critical to independence including being able to use money, keep up with a hygiene routine, cook meals, and have social interactions. These behaviors are important in autism, because there’s often a large gap in having high academic and cognitive abilities, but failing to succeed in real-world settings.
“The goal of all this work is to link what we understand in the brain to what matters to people in their everyday lives. This study is the first step in a much larger endeavor to help people with autism develop the skills they need to succeed,” Dr. Kenworthy said.
Contact: Lauren Lytle at 202-476-4500.