Neurophysiological underpinnings of autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of genetically heterogeneous developmental disorders characterized by similar behavioral features, such as difficulties with everyday social communication, social interaction, presence of repetitive behaviors and sensory hyper- or hypo-sensitivity. The current progress in molecular genetics and animal modeling studies has shown that the clinical manifestations of ASD may be linked to very different, and sometimes even opposite neural deficits (e.g. neural hyper- or hypo-excitability). Therefore, the pharmacological drugs that help some individuals with ASD may appear useless or even harmful for others. Hence, there is an urgent need for objective biomarkers that would reflect underlying neural deficits and predict which treatment would help a particular individual. In a series of studies we use MEG to investigate neural deficits linked to ASD. In particular, we investigate in people with ASD fast neural oscillations (gamma). These oscillations may help to estimate balance between neural excitation and inhibition in neural networks and may appear useful biomarkers for clinical trials.

The laboratory has an extensive database of children with ASD (about 100 cases), that includes MEG recordings, results of psychophysical and psychological tests, questionnaires, results of genetic analysis, etc. We cooperate with geneticists  (Yurov I.Yu., The Mental Health Research Center (MHRC), Moscow and Grigorenko EL, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg) on the studies of the biological bases of ASD.