Oscillatory neural networks underlying resting-state, attentional control and social cognition task conditions in children with ASD, ADHD and ASD+ADHD

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are common and impairing neurodevelopmental disorders that frequently co-occur. The neurobiological mechanisms involved in ASD and ADHD are not fully understood. However, alterations in large-scale neural networks have been proposed as core deficits in both ASD and ADHD and may help to disentangle the neurobiological basis of these disorders and their co-occurrence. In this study, we examined similarities and differences in large-scale oscillatory neural networks between boys aged 8–13 years with ASD (n = 19), ADHD (n = 18), ASD + ADHD (n = 29) and typical development (Controls, n = 26). Oscillatory neural networks were computed using graph-theoretical methods from electrophysiological (EEG) data collected during an eyes-open resting-state and attentional control and social cognition tasks in which we previously reported disorder-specific atypicalities in oscillatory power and event-related potentials (ERPs). We found that children with ASD showed significant hypoconnectivity in large-scale networks during all three task conditions compared to children without ASD. In contrast, children with ADHD showed significant hyperconnectivity in large-scale networks during the attentional control and social cognition tasks, but not during the resting-state, compared to children without ADHD. Children with co-occurring ASD + ADHD did not differ from children with ASD when paired with this group and vice versa when paired with the ADHD group, indicating that these children showed both ASD-like hypoconnectivity and ADHD-like hyperconnectivity. Our findings suggest that ASD and ADHD are associated with distinct alterations in large-scale oscillatory networks, and these atypicalities present together in children with both disorders. These alterations appear to be task-independent in ASD but task-related in ADHD, and may underlie other neurocognitive atypicalities in these disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-110
Number of pages15
Early online date19 Mar 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2019


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Comorbidity
  • EEG
  • Functional neural networks


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