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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neuroinform., 24 December 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fninf.2013.00037

Information gain in the brain's resting state: A new perspective on autism

  • 1Neuroscience and Mental Health Programme, Division of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 2Institute of Medical Science and Department of Paediatrics, Brain and Behaviour Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 3Department of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA

Along with the study of brain activity evoked by external stimuli, an increased interest in the research of background, “noisy” brain activity is fast developing in current neuroscience. It is becoming apparent that this “resting-state” activity is a major factor determining other, more particular, responses to stimuli and hence it can be argued that background activity carries important information used by the nervous systems for adaptive behaviors. In this context, we investigated the generation of information in ongoing brain activity recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG) in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and non-autistic children. Using a stochastic dynamical model of brain dynamics, we were able to resolve not only the deterministic interactions between brain regions, i.e., the brain's functional connectivity, but also the stochastic inputs to the brain in the resting state; an important component of large-scale neural dynamics that no other method can resolve to date. We then computed the Kullback-Leibler (KLD) divergence, also known as information gain or relative entropy, between the stochastic inputs and the brain activity at different locations (outputs) in children with ASD compared to controls. The divergence between the input noise and the brain's ongoing activity extracted from our stochastic model was significantly higher in autistic relative to non-autistic children. This suggests that brains of subjects with autism create more information at rest. We propose that the excessive production of information in the absence of relevant sensory stimuli or attention to external cues underlies the cognitive differences between individuals with and without autism. We conclude that the information gain in the brain's resting state provides quantitative evidence for perhaps the most typical characteristic in autism: withdrawal into one's inner world.

Keywords: brain's resting state, Asperger's syndrome, functional connectivity, stochastic input, relative entropy

Citation: Pérez Velázquez JL and Galán RF (2013) Information gain in the brain's resting state: A new perspective on autism. Front. Neuroinform. 7:37. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00037

Received: 14 May 2013; Accepted: 05 December 2013;
Published online: 24 December 2013.

Edited by:

Daniele Marinazzo, University of Gent, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Jesus M. Cortes, Ikerbasque. Biocruces Health Research Institute, Spain
Filip Van Opstal, Ghent University, Belgium

Copyright © 2013 Pérez Velázquez and Galán. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Roberto F. Galán, Department of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA e-mail: rfgalan@case.edu