Sensation, perception, cognition and behavior depend on complex neural processes carried by the coordinated function of brain structures. This coordination is achieved through oscillatory activity and synchronization, and the main pathways can be captured with resting-state activity. Structural alterations might affect the functional coordination with other brain structures, and a structure-function approach can provide a better understanding of the underlying neural mechanism that characterizes human populations. This thesis will study altered structure-function relationships in Autism Spectrum Disorder and in children born preterm at school age. Functional activity is assessed with MEG or fMRI resting-state data and structural characteristics with MRI. Both populations present brain oscillatory and structural alterations related to the thalamic-cortical system. Recent evidence indicates that the development of brain networks connectivity is altered in ASD and in very preterm born children. Evidence remains scant, however, regarding the relationship between atypical brain network connectivity and altered structure-function relationships in these groups. In ASD, there is contradictory evidence on the nature of such alterations with some studies suggesting increased or decreased functional connectivity involving particular structural areas. In very preterm children, evidence regarding the overall nature of structure-function network alterations remains scarce. Both populations present structural alterations and atypical oscillatory activity, and this research will investigate how structure-function relationships in brain networks are altered in ASD and in very preterm children and their association with developmental difficulties. Specifically, in ASD it will be assessed the functional brain networks spatial maps variability and atypical structural developmental trajectories of cortical thickness, and in preterm, atypical oscillatory activity and synchrony, and altered thalamic structural measures.
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Thesis advisor: Doesburg, Sam
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