Peak alpha frequency is a neural marker of cognitive function across the autism spectrum

Abstract

Cognitive function varies substantially and serves as a key predictor of outcome and response to intervention in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet we know little about the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie cognitive function in children with ASD. The dynamics of neuronal oscillations in the alpha range (6-12 Hz) are associated with cognition in typical development. Peak alpha frequency is also highly sensitive to developmental changes in neural networks which underlie cognitive function, and therefore it holds promise as a developmentally-sensitive neural marker of cognitive function in ASD. Here, we measured peak alpha band frequency under a task-free condition in a heterogeneous sample of children with ASD (N=59) and age-matched typically developing (TD) children (N=38). At a group level, peak alpha frequency was decreased in ASD compared to TD children. Moreover, within the ASD group, peak alpha frequency correlated strongly with non-verbal cognition. As peak alpha frequency reflects the integrity of neural networks, our results suggest that deviations in network development may underlie cognitive function in individuals with ASD. By shedding light on the neurobiological correlates of cognitive function in ASD, our findings lay the groundwork for considering peak alpha frequency as a useful biomarker of cognitive function within this population which, in turn, will facilitate investigations of early markers of cognitive impairment and predictors of outcome in high risk infants.

Source: Dickinson, A., DiStefano, C., Senturk, D. and Spurling Jeste, S. (), Peak alpha frequency is a neural marker of cognitive function across the autism spectrum. Eur J Neurosci. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ejn.13645