Intrinsic excitation-inhibition imbalance affects medial prefrontal cortex differently in autistic men versus women
Amber N. V. Ruigrok,
Edward T. Bullmore,
MRC AIMS Consortium,
Michael V. Lombardo
Posted 27 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.16.909531 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.55684)
Posted 27 Jan 2020
Excitation-inhibition (E:I) imbalance is theorized as an important pathophysiological mechanism in autism. Autism affects males more frequently than females and sex-related mechanisms (e.g., X-linked genes, androgen hormones) can influence E:I balance. This suggests that E:I imbalance may affect autism differently in males versus females. With a combination of in-silico modeling and in-vivo chemogenetic manipulations in mice, we first show that a time-series metric estimated from fMRI BOLD signal, the Hurst exponent (H), can be an index for underlying change in the synaptic E:I ratio. In autism we find that H is reduced, indicating increased excitation, in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) of autistic males but not females. Increasingly intact MPFC H is also associated with heightened ability to behaviorally camouflage social-communicative difficulties, but only in autistic females. This work suggests that H in BOLD can index synaptic E:I ratio and that E:I imbalance affects autistic males and females differently. ### Competing Interest Statement E.T.B. is employed half-time by the University of Cambridge and half-time at GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK); he holds stock in GSK. All other authors have no conflict of interests to declare.
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