Background: Many studies have reported that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with atypical structural and functional connectivity. However, relatively little is known about the development of these differences in infancy and on how trajectories may vary between sexes.
Methods: We used the International Infant EEG Platform (EEG-IP), a high-density electroencephalogram (EEG) dataset pooled from two independent infant sibling cohorts, to characterize such neurodevelopmental deviations during the first years of life. EEG was recorded at 6, 12, and 18 months of age at typical (N=97) or high familial risk for ASD (N=98), determined by the presence of an older sibling with a confirmed ASD diagnosis. We computed the functional connectivity between cortical EEG sources during video watching using the corrected imaginary part of phase-locking values.
Results: Our findings showed low regional specificity for group differences in functional connectivity but revealed different sex-specific trajectories between females and males in the group of high-risk infants. Specifically, functional connectivity was negatively correlated with ADOS calibrated severity scores, particularly at 12 months for the social affect score for females and for the restrictive and repetitive behaviors for males.
Limitations: This study has been limited mostly due to issues related to the relatively small effective sample size inherent in sibling studies, particularly for diagnostic group comparisons.
Conclusions: These results are consistent with sex differences in ASD observed in previous research and provide further insights into the role of functional connectivity in these differences.