Pediatric Neurology, 61, 28–37p. (2016) DOI:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2016.03.010

Recent Advances in Resting-State Electroencephalography Biomarkers for Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Review of Methodological and Clinical Challenges

T. M. Heunis, C. A. Deng, P. J. de Vries

Background Electroencephalography (EEG) has been used for almost a century to identify seizure-related disorders in humans, typically through expert interpretation of multichannel recordings. Attempts have been made to quantify EEG through frequency analyses and graphic representations. These “traditional” quantitative EEG analysis methods were limited in their ability to analyze complex and multivariate data and have not been generally accepted in clinical settings. There has been growing interest in identification of novel EEG biomarkers to detect early risk of autism spectrum disorder, to identify clinically meaningful subgroups, and to monitor targeted intervention strategies. Most studies to date have, however, used quantitative EEG approaches, and little is known about the emerging multivariate analytical methods or the robustness of candidate biomarkers in the context of the variability of autism spectrum disorder.

Methods Here, we present a targeted review of methodological and clinical challenges in the search for novel resting-state EEG biomarkers for autism spectrum disorder.

Results Three primary novel methodologies are discussed: (1) modified multiscale entropy, (2) coherence analysis, and (3) recurrence quantification analysis. Results suggest that these methods may be able to classify resting-state EEG as “autism spectrum disorder” or “typically developing”, but many signal processing questions remain unanswered.

Conclusions We suggest that the move to novel EEG analysis methods is akin to the progress in neuroimaging from visual inspection, through region-of-interest analysis, to whole-brain computational analysis. Novel resting-state EEG biomarkers will have to evaluate a range of potential demographic, clinical, and technical confounders including age, gender, intellectual ability, comorbidity, and medication, before these approaches can be translated into the clinical setting.

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