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Age-variant and age-invariant features of functional brain organization in middle-aged and older autistic adults

Authors
  • Bathelt, Joe1
  • Koolschijn, P. Cédric1
  • Geurts, Hilde M.1
  • 1 University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 129-B, Amsterdam, 1018 WS, Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Molecular Autism
Publisher
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jan 22, 2020
Volume
11
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1186/s13229-020-0316-y
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

BackgroundThe majority of research effort into autism has been dedicated to understanding mechanisms during early development. As a consequence, research on the broader life course of an autism spectrum condition (ASC) has largely been neglected and almost nothing is known about ASC beyond middle age. Differences in brain connectivity that arise during early development may be maintained across the lifespan and may play protective or detrimental roles in older age.MethodThis study explored age-related differences in functional connectivity across middle and older age in clinically diagnosed autistic adults (n = 44, 30–73 years) and in an age-matched typical comparison group (n = 45).ResultsThe results indicated parallel age-related associations in ASC and typical aging for the local efficiency and connection strength of the default mode network and for the segregation of the frontoparietal control network. In contrast, group differences in visual network connectivity are compatible with a safeguarding interpretation of less age-related decline in brain function in ASC. This divergence was mirrored in different associations between visual network connectivity and reaction time variability in the ASC and comparison group.LimitationsThe study is cross-sectional and may be affected by cohort effects. As all participants received their autism diagnosis in adulthood, this might hinder generalizability.ConclusionThese results highlight the complexity of aging in ASC with both parallel and divergent trajectories across different aspects of functional network organization.

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