Atypical functional connectivity between the amygdala and visual, salience regions in infants with genetic liability for autism

Janelle Liu, Jessica B. Girault, Tomoyuki Nishino, Mark D. Shen, Sun Hyung Kim, Catherine A. Burrows, Jed T. Elison, Natasha Marrus, Jason J. Wolff, Kelly N. Botteron, Annette M. Estes, Stephen R. Dager, Heather C. Hazlett, Robert C. McKinstry, Robert T. Schultz, Abraham Z. Snyder, Martin Styner, Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, John R. Pruett, Joseph PivenWei Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The amygdala undergoes a period of overgrowth in the first year of life, resulting in enlarged volume by 12 months in infants later diagnosed with ASD. The overgrowth of the amygdala may have functional consequences during infancy. We investigated whether amygdala connectivity differs in 12-month-olds at high likelihood (HL) for ASD (defined by having an older sibling with autism), compared to those at low likelihood (LL). We examined seed-based connectivity of left and right amygdalae, hypothesizing that the HL and LL groups would differ in amygdala connectivity, especially with the visual cortex, based on our prior reports demonstrating that components of visual circuitry develop atypically and are linked to genetic liability for autism. We found that HL infants exhibited weaker connectivity between the right amygdala and the left visual cortex, as well as between the left amygdala and the right anterior cingulate, with evidence that these patterns occur in distinct subgroups of the HL sample. Amygdala connectivity strength with the visual cortex was related to motor and communication abilities among HL infants. Findings indicate that aberrant functional connectivity between the amygdala and visual regions is apparent in infants with genetic liability for ASD and may have implications for early differences in adaptive behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number13
StatePublished - May 1 2024


  • MRI
  • amygdala
  • autism
  • functional connectivity
  • infant


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