Identifying replicable subgroups in neurodevelopmental conditions using resting-state fMRI data

What was the research about?

Observable traits and mental processes in neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder, show a lot of overlap. While researchers have identified subgroups of children with similar brain characteristics across these diagnoses, their findings have yet to be replicated independently in other data sets. This research identifies subgroups of children and youth, both with and without neurodevelopmental disorders, who share common brain characteristics and replicated the findings in an independent data set.


What did the researchers do?

Researchers grouped participants’ brain data separately for the 2 data sets using a process known as clustering. This technique involves identifying similarities between participants’ brain activities at resting state and grouping them together. The 2 different data sets were the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Network (POND) in Ontario and the Healthy Brain Network in New York. Participants included 551 individuals from each data set who are 5-19 years old and had diagnoses of ASD, ADHD, OCD or were typically developing. 


What did the researchers find?

Researchers found subgroups of individuals in both data sets with similar brain activity. In both data sets, differences in thinking skills and impulsiveness/hyperactivity characterized the unique groups but not current diagnostic classifications.


Take home message

The findings from the research have been successfully replicated in 2 distinct data sets, which provide evidence that individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions displaying similar brain patterns are characterized by shared observable behavioural traits but not diagnoses. The process of replication is important in establishing the reliability of results and reinforcing the confidence in research outcomes. Such reliable findings can be effectively applied in clinical contexts. By emphasizing the similarities in brain functioning, shared thinking patterns and behaviour, we can enhance our ability to offer personalized interventions, accommodations, and services to those with neurodevelopmental conditions.

The full research article can be accessed at this link:

Reference (APA):

Vandewouw, M., Brian, J., Crosbie, J., . Schachar. R. J., Iaboni, A., Georgiades., S, Nicolson, R., Kelley. E.,  Ayub, M., Jones. J., Taylor, M. J.,  Lerch, J. P., Anagnostou., E. Kushki, A. (2023). Identifying replicable subgroups in neurodevelopmental conditions using resting-state fMRI data. JAMA Network Open, 6(3):e232066. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.2066