Difference in default mode network subsystems in autism across childhood and adolescence

Joe Bathelt, Hilde M. Geurts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Differences in the default mode network are among the most replicated brain-level findings in autistic individuals. Furthermore, subregions within the default mode network are associated with cognitive functions such as mentalising that are immediately relevant to cognitive theories of autism. Recent evidence suggests that the default mode network comprises partially independent subsystems that are tied to dissociable cognitive processes, specifically a medial temporal lobe subsystem involved in memory retrieval, a dorsal medial prefrontal cortex subsystem involved in social processing and a posterior cingulate cortex – anterior medial prefrontal cortex system that ties the other subsystems together. This modular organisation is thought to arise in childhood development. The current analysis investigated differences in default mode network subsystems in 193 autistic boys and young men (5–18 years) and in a group of 208 age-matched boys and young men without a diagnosis using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging from the data repository of the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange. The results indicated a developmental trend towards greater modularisation of the default mode network across childhood and adolescence in autism, mostly driven by reduced between-subnetwork connection strength. In contrast, default mode network subnetwork organisation was relatively stable in the comparison group. We suggest that these differences reflect delayed maturation of the default mode network in autism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2020

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