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Elife. 2019 Feb 5;8. pii: e42256. doi: 10.7554/eLife.42256.

Atypical intrinsic neural timescale in autism.

Author information

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
RIKEN Centre for Brain Science, Wako, Japan.
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Department of Engineering Mathematics, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.


How long neural information is stored in a local brain area reflects functions of that region and is often estimated by the magnitude of the autocorrelation of intrinsic neural signals in the area. Here, we investigated such intrinsic neural timescales in high-functioning adults with autism and examined whether local brain dynamics reflected their atypical behaviours. By analysing resting-state fMRI data, we identified shorter neural timescales in the sensory/visual cortices and a longer timescale in the right caudate in autism. The shorter intrinsic timescales in the sensory/visual areas were correlated with the severity of autism, whereas the longer timescale in the caudate was associated with cognitive rigidity. These observations were confirmed from neurodevelopmental perspectives and replicated in two independent cross-sectional datasets. Moreover, the intrinsic timescale was correlated with local grey matter volume. This study shows that functional and structural atypicality in local brain areas is linked to higher-order cognitive symptoms in autism.


autism spectrum disorder; grey matter volume; human; intrinsic timescale; neuroscience; resting-state fMRI; temporal receptive window

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