Interacting with the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) via the LONI Pipeline workflow environment
Under the umbrella of the National Database for Clinical Trials (NDCT) related to mental illnesses, the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) seeks to gather, curate, and make openly available neuroimaging data from NIH-funded studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). NDAR has recently made its database accessible through the LONI Pipeline workflow design and execution environment to enable large-scale analyses of cortical architecture and function via local, cluster, or "cloud"-based computing resources. This presents a unique opportunity to overcome many of the customary limitations to fostering biomedical neuroimaging as a science of discovery. Providing open access to primary neuroimaging data, workflow methods, and high-performance computing will increase uniformity in data collection protocols, encourage greater reliability of published data, results replication, and broaden the range of researchers now able to perform larger studies than ever before. To illustrate the use of NDAR and LONI Pipeline for performing several commonly performed neuroimaging processing steps and analyses, this paper presents example workflows useful for ASD neuroimaging researchers seeking to begin using this valuable combination of online data and computational resources. We discuss the utility of such database and workflow processing interactivity as a motivation for the sharing of additional primary data in ASD research and elsewhere.
Information management is critical as the landscape of neuroscience related shared resources (data, software, computation, etc.) expands. Since 2006, the Neuroimaging Informatics Tools and Resources Clearinghouse (NITRC: RRID:nif-0000-00202) has provided a comprehensive support infrastructure for resources in the neuroimaging domain. Funded by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research as well as four NIH institutes , NITRC’s mission is to facilitate finding and comparing neuroimaging resources for neuroimaging analyses. Over the years the scope of these resources has expanded to support scientific domains from MR to PET, SPECT, CT, MEG/EEG, optical imaging, genetic imaging, clinical neuroinformatics and computational neuroscience. A broad set of initiatives have been developed to support these research areas.
Growing evidence suggests abnormalities in brain morphology including hippocampal structure in patients with methamphetamine (MA) dependence. This study was performed to examine hippocampal volume in abstinent MA users, and to further explore its relationship with cognitive function. 30 abstinent MA users (20 males and 10 females) with average 5.52 months of duration of abstinence and 29 healthy controls (19 males and 10 females) age 18-45 years old were recruited for clinical assessment and imaging scan. FreeSurfer was used to segment the hippocampus bilaterally, and hippocampal volumes were extracted for group and gender comparisons. Cognitive function was measured using the CogState Battery Chinese language version (CSB-C). Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) controlling for education showed a significant group by gender interaction for the right hippocampal relative volume adjusted for total brain size (p=0.020); there was a significant difference between male controls and female controls (p < 0.001), but such a difference did not exist between male patients and female patients (p=0.203). No significant correlations were found between hippocampal volume and cognitive measures. There seems to be a gender difference in how MA affects hippocampal volume in abstinent MA users. Hippocampus might be an important treatment target for cognitive improvement and functional recovery in this patient population, especially in females.
Quantitative Measures of Craniofacial Dysmorphology in a Family Study of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Illness
Several laboratories, including ours, have reported an overrepresentation of craniofacial (CF) anomalies in schizophrenia (SZ). How might this dysmorphology arise in a brain-based disorder? Because the brain and face derive from shared embryologic primordia and morphogenetic forces, maldevelopmental processes may result in both CF and brain dysmorphology. Our approach is 2-pronged. First, we have employed, for the first time in the study of psychiatric disorders, objective measures of CF morphology that utilize an extensive normative database, permitting computation of standardized scores for each subject. Second, we have rendered these findings biologically interpretable by adopting principles of embryology in the analysis of dysmorphology. Dependent measures in this investigation focused on derivatives of specific embryonic primordia and were contrasted among probands with psychotic disorders, their first-degree relatives, and normal controls (NC). Subject groups included patients with a diagnosis of SZ (N = 39) or bipolar (BP) disorder with psychotic features (N = 32), their clinically unaffected relatives (N = 82 and N = 41, respectively), and NC (N = 95) subjects. Anomalies involving derivatives of frontonasal and mandibular embryonic primordia showed a clear association with psychotic illness, as well as familial aggregation in relatives in both diagnostic groups. In contrast, one class of CF anomalies emerged only among SZ probands and their first-degree relatives: dysmorphology arising along the junction of the frontonasal and maxillary prominence derivatives, manifested as marked asymmetries. This class was not overrepresented among the BP patients nor among their relatives, indicating that this dysmorphology appears to be specific to SZ and not a generalized feature of psychosis. We discuss these findings in light of embryologic models that relate brain regions to specific CF areas.
Physical Activity Enjoyment, Perceived Barriers, and Beliefs Among Adolescents With and Without Intellectual Disabilities
BACKGROUND: Youth with intellectual disabilities (ID) exhibit low levels of physical activity, but the underlying contributors to behavior are unclear. We compared physical activity enjoyment, perceived barriers, beliefs, and self-efficacy among adolescents with ID and typically developing (TD) adolescents.
METHODS: A questionnaire was administered to 38 adolescents with ID (mean age 16.8 years) and 60 TD adolescents (mean age 15.3 years). Of the original 33 questionnaire items, 23 met the test-retest reliability criteria and were included in the group comparisons.
RESULTS: Fewer adolescents with ID reported that they have someone to do physical activity with (64% vs. 93%, p < 0.001), and a greater proportion of adolescents with ID perceived that physical activities were too hard to learn (41% vs. 0%, p < 0.001). Fewer adolescents with ID believed that physical activity is good for their health (92% vs. 100%, p=0.05). More adolescents with ID reported a dislike of individual physical activities (p=0.02). A large proportion of adolescents with ID (84%) responded that they were good at doing physical activities, but the difference between groups was only of borderline significance. (95% of TD adolescents, p=0.06).
CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents shared many of the same perceptions about physical activity, but some important differences between groups were identified.
Barriers to Physical Activity in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Relationship to Physical Activity and Screen Time
BACKGROUND: Individual, social, and community barriers to physical activity (PA) experienced by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make PA participation more difficult and may contribute to increased screen time. METHODS: We compared the prevalence of parent-reported barriers to PA among 58 typically developing (TD) children and 53 children with an ASD, 3-11 years, and assessed the association between barriers and PA participation and screen time among children with ASD. RESULTS: Parents of children with ASD reported significantly more barriers than parents of TD children. Based on parent-report, 60% of children with ASD required too much supervision compared to no TD children (p<0.001). Parents of children with ASD were more likely to report that adults lack skills needed to include their child (58%), that their child has few friends (45%), and that other children exclude their child (23%). The number of parent-reported barriers to PA was inversely correlated with the hours spent in PA per year (r=-0.27, p=0.05) and positively related to total screen time (r=0.32, p < 0.03). CONCLUSIONS: These findings underscore the need for community-based PA programs designed to meet the special requirements of this population and policies that compel schools and other government-supported organizations for inclusion and/or targeted programming.
Relationship among Glutamine, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, and Social Cognition in Autism Spectrum Disorders
OBJECTIVE: An imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been proposed. We compared glutamate (Glu), glutamine (Gln), and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of 13 males with ASD and 14 typically developing (TD) males (ages 13-17), and correlated these levels with intelligence quotient (IQ) and measures of social cognition.
METHODS: Social cognition was evaluated by administration of the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). We acquired proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS) data from the bilateral ACC using the single voxel point resolved spectroscopy sequence (PRESS) to quantify Glu and Gln, and Mescher-Garwood point-resolved spectroscopy sequence (MEGA-PRESS) to quantify GABA levels referenced to creatine (Cr).
RESULTS: There were higher Gln levels (p=0.04), and lower GABA/Cre levels (p=0.09) in the ASD group than in the TD group. There was no difference in Glu levels between groups. Gln was negatively correlated with RMET score (rho=-0.62, p=0.001) and IQ (rho=-0.56, p=0.003), and positively correlated with SRS scores (rho=0.53, p=0.007). GABA/Cre levels were positively correlated with RMET score (rho=0.34, p=0.09) and IQ (rho=0.36, p=0.07), and negatively correlated with SRS score (rho=-0.34, p=0.09).
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest an imbalance between glutamatergic neurotransmission and GABA-ergic neurotransmission in ASD. Higher Gln levels and lower GABA/Cre levels were associated with lower IQ and greater impairments in social cognition across groups.