Objectives: The brain functional network of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in the
earlier stages of life has been almost unknown due to difficulties in obtaining a resting-state functional
magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI). This study aimed to perform rs-MRI under a sedated
sleep state and reveal possible alterations in the brain functional network.
Methods: Rs-fMRI was performed in a group of preschool children (aged 2–6 years, 53 with ASD,
63 as controls) under a sedated sleeping state. Based on graph theoretical analysis, global and local
topological metrics were calculated to investigate alterations in brain functional networks. Besides,
correlation analyses were conducted between the abnormal attribute values and the Childhood
Autism Rating Scale (CARS) scores.
Results: The graph theoretical analysis showed that the nodal degree of the right medial frontal
gyrus and the nodal efficiency of the right lingual gyrus in the ASD group were higher than those
in the control group (P<0.05). There was a statistically significant positive correlation (R=0.318,
P<0.05) between the right midfrontal gyrus nodal degree values and CARS scores in the ASD patients.
Conclusion: Alterations of some nodal attributes in the brain network occurred in preschool autistic
children which could serve as potential imaging biomarkers for evaluating ASD in earlier