Sex differences in functional connectivity of the salience, default mode, and central executive networks in youth with asd

Katherine E. Lawrence, Leanna M. Hernandez, Hilary C. Bowman, Namita T. Padgaonkar, Emily Fuster, Allison Jack, Elizabeth Aylward, Nadine Gaab, John D. VanHorn, Raphael A. Bernier, Daniel H. Geschwind, James C. McPartland, Charles A. Nelson, Sara J. Webb, Kevin A. Pelphrey, Shulamite A. Green, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Mirella Dapretto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with the altered functional connectivity of 3 neurocognitive networks that are hypothesized to be central to the symptomatology of ASD: The salience network (SN), default mode network (DMN), and central executive network (CEN). Due to the considerably higher prevalence of ASD in males, however, previous studies examining these networks in ASD have used primarily male samples. It is thus unknown how these networks may be differentially impacted among females with ASD compared to males with ASD, and how such differences may compare to those observed in neurotypical individuals. Here, we investigated the functional connectivity of the SN, DMN, and CEN in a large, well-matched sample of girls and boys with and without ASD (169 youth, ages 8-17). Girls with ASD displayed greater functional connectivity between the DMN and CEN than boys with ASD, whereas typically developing girls and boys differed in SN functional connectivity only. Together, these results demonstrate that youth with ASD exhibit altered sex differences in these networks relative to what is observed in typical development, and highlight the importance of considering sex-related biological factors and participant sex when characterizing the neural mechanisms underlying ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5107-5120
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Functional connectivity
  • Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Sex differences
  • Sexual differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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