The atypical static brain functions related to the executive control network (ECN), default mode network (DMN), and salience network (SN) in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been widely reported. However, transient functions of them in ASD are not clear. We aim to identify transient network states (TNSs) using co-activation pattern (CAP) analysis to characterize the age-related atypical transient functions in ASD.

CAP analysis was performed on a resting-state fMRI dataset (78 ASD and 78 healthy control (CON) juveniles, 54 ASD and 54 CON adults). Six TNSs were divided into the DMN-, ECN-, and SN-TNSs. The DMN-TNSs were major states with the highest stability and proportion, and the ECN- and SN-TNSs were minor states. Age-related abnormalities on spatial stability and TNS proportion were found in ASD. The spatial stability of DMN-TNSs was found increasing with age in CON, but not found in ASD. Lower proportion of DMN-TNSs was found in ASD compared with CON of same age, ASD juveniles had higher proportion of SN-TNSs while ASD adults had higher proportion of ECN-TNSs. The abnormalities on spatial stability and TNS proportion were related to social deficits. Our results provided new evidence for atypical transient brain functions in ASD people.

This article reveals the age-related atypical transient brain functions in autistic people. The default mode network dominates major states during rest while the executive control network and salience network dominates minor states. Major states have more stable co-activation patterns and higher proportion than minor states. The spatial stability would increase with age in healthy controls but not in autistic people. Meanwhile, autistic people spend less time on major states but more time on minor states. In addition, the unstable transient states and imbalanced activation proportion of brain networks are correlated with the social deficits. Although this work is limited by that single scanning data of only male participants with normal intelligence are involved, it provides new transient aspect for atypical brain function in autistic people.

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Handling Editor: Shella Keilholz

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