Altered immune function associated with disordered neural connectivity and executive dysfunctions: A neurophysiological study on children with autism spectrum disorders

Yvonne Ming Yee Han, Agnes S. Chan, Sophia L. Sze, Mei Chun Cheung, Chun Kwok Wong, Joseph M.K. Lam, Priscilla M.K. Poon

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have shown that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have impaired executive function, disordered neural connectivity, and abnormal immunologic function. The present study examined whether these abnormalities were associated. Seventeen high-functioning (HFA) and 17 low-functioning (LFA) children with ASD, aged 8-17 years, participated voluntarily in the study. The two groups of children were compared on their general intelligence in terms of IQ; executive function as measured by the Hong Kong List Learning Test, D2 Test of Concentration, Five Point Test, Children's Color Trail Test, Tower of California Test, and Go/No-Go task; a non-executive task as measured by the Picture Completion Task; neural connectivity as measured by theta coherence in the anterior and posterior regions; and immunologic function as measured by the level of circulating CD3+ CD8+ suppressor/cytotoxic T lymphocytes in a blood sample. Results on executive function showed that LFA children performed significantly poorer than HFA children as shown on their lower Executive Composite as well as individual executive function scores. However, there was no group difference on the Picture Completion Task. Results on neural connectivity showed that LFA children demonstrated a different pattern of electroencephalography (EEG) coherence from HFA children as shown in the significantly elevated theta coherence in the anterior network, as well as at the left intra-hemispheric (LA-LP) and right-to-left inter-hemisphere (RA-LP) connections of LFA children. In immunologic function, results showed that LFA children had significantly elevated level of suppressor/cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CD3+ CD8+) (p < 0.05). In addition, the executive dysfunction, disordered neural connectivity, and abnormal immunologic function were found to be associated. These results provided some initial evidence to support the notion that immunologic factors are associated with neuronal damage, measureable by EEG coherence and manifested as executive dysfunctions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-674
Number of pages13
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2013


  • Autism
  • Children
  • EEG coherence
  • Executive dysfunction
  • Immunologic function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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