Isakoglou C, Haak KV, Wolfers T, Floris DL, Llera A, Oldehinkel M, Forde NJ, Oakley BFM, Tillmann J, Holt RJ, Moessnang C, Loth E, Bourgeron T, Baron-Cohen S, Charman T, Banaschewski T, Murphy DGM, Buitelaar JK, Marquand AF, Beckmann CF.
Transl Psychiatry. 2023 Jul 27;13(1):270. doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02559-3.
Sensory atypicalities are particularly common in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Nevertheless, our knowledge about the divergent functioning of the underlying somatosensory region and its association with ASD phenotype features is limited. We applied a data-driven approach to map the fine-grained variations in functional connectivity of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) to the rest of the brain in 240 autistic and 164 neurotypical individuals from the EU-AIMS LEAP dataset, aged between 7 and 30. We estimated the S1 connection topography (‘connectopy’) at rest and during the emotional face-matching (Hariri) task, an established measure of emotion reactivity, and accessed its association with a set of clinical and behavioral variables. We first demonstrated that the S1 connectopy is organized along a dorsoventral axis, mapping onto the S1 somatotopic organization. We then found that its spatial characteristics were linked to the individuals’ adaptive functioning skills, as measured by the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, across the whole sample. Higher functional differentiation characterized the S1 connectopies of individuals with higher daily life adaptive skills. Notably, we detected significant differences between rest and the Hariri task in the S1 connectopies, as well as their projection maps onto the rest of the brain suggesting a task-modulating effect on S1 due to emotion processing. All in all, variation of adaptive skills appears to be reflected in the brain’s mesoscale neural circuitry, as shown by the S1 connectivity profile, which is also differentially modulated during rest and emotional processing.