Motor noise is rich signal in autism research and pharmacological treatments

E. B. Torres, K. Denisova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The human body is in constant motion, from every breath that we take, to every visibly purposeful action that we perform. Remaining completely still on command is a major achievement as involuntary fluctuations in our motions are difficult to keep under control. Here we examine the noise-to-signal ratio of micro-movements present in time-series of head motions extracted from resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans in 1048 participants. These included individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and healthy-controls in shared data from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) and the Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD-200) databases. We find excess noise and randomness in the ASD cases, suggesting an uncertain motor-feedback signal. A power-law emerged describing an orderly relation between the dispersion and shape of the probability distribution functions best describing the stochastic properties under consideration with respect to intelligence quotient (IQ-scores). In ASD, deleterious patterns of noise are consistently exacerbated with the presence of secondary (comorbid) neuropsychiatric diagnoses, lower verbal and performance intelligence, and autism severity. Importantly, such patterns in ASD are present whether or not the participant takes psychotropic medication. These data unambiguously establish specific noise-to-signal levels of head micro-movements as a biologically informed core feature of ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37422
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Nov 21 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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