Aberrant brain oscillatory coupling from the primary motor cortex in children with autism spectrum disorders

Kyung-min An*, Takashi Ikeda, Chiaki Hasegawa, Yuko Yoshimura, Sanae Tanaka, Daisuke Saito, Ken Yaoi, Sumie Iwasaki, Tetsu Hirosawa, Ole Jensen, Mitsuru Kikuchi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often involves dysfunction in general motor control and motor coordination, in addition to core symptoms. However, the neural mechanisms underlying motor dysfunction in ASD are poorly understood. To elucidate this issue, we focused on brain oscillations and their coupling in the primary motor cortex (M1). We recorded magnetoencephalography in 18 children with ASD, aged 5 to 7 years, and 19 age- and IQ-matched typically-developing children while they pressed a button during a video-game-like motor task. The motor-related gamma (70 to 90 Hz) and pre-movement beta oscillations (15 to 25 Hz) were analyzed in the primary motor cortex using an inverse method. To determine the coupling between beta and gamma oscillations, we applied phase-amplitude coupling to calculate the statistical dependence between the amplitude of fast oscillations and the phase of slow oscillations. We observed a motor-related gamma increase and a pre-movement beta decrease in both groups. The ASD group exhibited a reduced motor-related gamma increase and enhanced pre-movement beta decrease in the ipsilateral primary motor cortex. We found phase-amplitude coupling, in which high-gamma activity was modulated by the beta rhythm in the primary motor cortex. Phase-amplitude coupling in the ipsilateral primary motor cortex was reduced in the ASD group compared with the control group. Using oscillatory changes and their couplings, linear discriminant analysis classified the ASD and control groups with high accuracy (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve: 97.1%). The current findings revealed alterations in oscillations and oscillatory coupling, reflecting the dysregulation of motor gating mechanisms in ASD. These results may be helpful for elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying motor dysfunction in ASD, suggesting the possibility of developing a biomarker for ASD diagnosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102560
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Brain oscillations
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Motor cortex
  • Phase-amplitude coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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