The present study aimed to explore the neural correlates of two characteristic deficits in autism spectrum disorders (ASD); social impairment and restricted, repetitive behavior patterns. To this end, we used comparable experiences of social exclusion and rule violation to probe potentially atypical neural networks in ASD. In children and adolescents with and without ASD, we used the interactive ball-toss game (Cyberball) to elicit social exclusion and a comparable game (Cybershape) to elicit a non-exclusive rule violation. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we identified group differences in brain responses to social exclusion and rule violation. Though both groups reported equal distress following exclusion, the right insula and ventral anterior cingulate cortex were hypoactive during exclusion in children with ASD. In rule violation, right insula and dorsal prefrontal cortex were hyperactive in ASD. Right insula showed a dissociation in activation; it was hypoactive to social exclusion and hyperactive to rule violation in the ASD group. Further probed, different regions of right insula were modulated in each game, highlighting differences in regional specificity for which subsequent analyses revealed differences in patterns of functional connectivity. These results demonstrate neurobiological differences in processing social exclusion and rule violation in children with ASD.
Social Exclusion; Rule Violation; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Right Insula; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Despite significant social difficulties, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are vulnerable to the effects of social exclusion. We recorded EEG while children with ASD and typical peers played a computerized game involving peer rejection. Children with ASD reported ostracism-related distress comparable to typically developing children. Event-related potentials (ERPs) indicated a distinct pattern of temporal processing of rejection events in children with ASD. While typically developing children showed enhanced response to rejection at a late slow wave indexing emotional arousal and regulation, those with autism showed attenuation at an early component, suggesting reduced engagement of attentional resources in the aversive social context. Results emphasize the importance of studying the time course of social information processing in ASD; they suggest distinct mechanisms subserving similar overt behavior and yield insights relevant to development and implementation of targeted treatment approaches and objective measures of response to treatment.
ERP; EEG; autism spectrum disorder; social exclusion; social neuroscience
Developmental research has demonstrated the harmful effects of peer rejection during adolescence; however, the neural mechanisms responsible for this salience remain unexplored. In this study, 23 adolescents were excluded during a ball-tossing game in which they believed they were playing with two other adolescents during an fMRI scan; in reality, participants played with a preset computer program. Afterwards, participants reported their exclusion-related distress and rejection sensitivity, and parents reported participants’ interpersonal competence. Similar to findings in adults, during social exclusion adolescents displayed insular activity that was positively related to self-reported distress, and right ventrolateral prefrontal activity that was negatively related to self-reported distress. Findings unique to adolescents indicated that activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (subACC) related to greater distress, and that activity in the ventral striatum related to less distress and appeared to play a role in regulating activity in the subACC and other regions involved in emotional distress. Finally, adolescents with higher rejection sensitivity and interpersonal competence scores displayed greater neural evidence of emotional distress, and adolescents with higher interpersonal competence scores also displayed greater neural evidence of regulation, perhaps suggesting that adolescents who are vigilant regarding peer acceptance may be most sensitive to rejection experiences.
peer rejection; adolescence; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by language and communication impairments, social impairments, and repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. Previous studies of semantic functions have found differences in semantic processing and differences in the activation of the language network in adults with ASD compared to controls. The goal of this study is to examine semantic functions in adolescents with ASD compared to typically developing adolescents. We utilized fMRI with a reading version of a response-naming task to investigate activation in 12 right-handed adolescent boys with ASD and 12 typically developing boys. Both groups performed the task at ceiling levels. Boys with ASD had significantly stronger activation than controls in Broca's area, which was less left lateralized in ASD individuals. Controls had a significant correlation between frontal and temporal language area activation in the left hemisphere, whereas ASD adolescents did not. Direct group comparisons revealed additional regions activated in the ASD group relative to the control group. These results suggest differences in semantic organization, approaches to the semantic task, or efficiency in semantic processing in ASD adolescents relative to typically developing adolescents.
Autistic disorder; Functional MRI; Broca's area; Wernicke's area; Semantics; Asymmetry
Executive functions deficits are among the most frequently reported symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), however, there have been few functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that investigate the neural substrates of executive functions deficits in ASDs, and only one in adolescents. The current study examined cognitive control –the ability to maintain task context online to support adaptive functioning in the face of response competition—in 22 adolescents aged 12–18 with autism spectrum disorders and 23 age, gender, and IQ matched typically developing subjects. During the cue phase of the task, where subjects must maintain information online to overcome a prepotent response tendency, typically developing subjects recruited significantly more anterior frontal (BA 10), parietal (BA 7, 40), and occipital regions (BA 18) for high control trials (25% of trials) versus low control trials (75% of trials). Both groups showed similar activation for low control cues, however the ASD group exhibited significantly less activation for high control cues. Functional connectivity analysis using time series correlation, factor analysis, and beta series correlation methods provided convergent evidence that the ASD group exhibited lower levels of functional connectivity and less network integration between frontal, parietal, and occipital regions. In the typically developing group, fronto-parietal connectivity was related to lower error rates on high control trials. In the autism group, reduced fronto-parietal connectivity was related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms.
autism spectrum disorders; cognitive control; executive functions; fMRI; functional connectivity; attention deficit disorder
Extensive developmental research has linked peer rejection during adolescence with a host of psychopathological outcomes, including depression. Moreover, recent neuroimaging research has suggested that increased activity in the subgenual region of the anterior cingulate cortex (subACC), which has been consistently linked with depression, is related to heightened sensitivity to peer rejection among adolescents. The goal of the current study was to directly test the hypothesis that adolescents’ subACC responses are predictive of their risk for future depression, by examining the relationship between subACC activity during peer rejection and increases in depressive symptoms during the following year. During a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, 20 13-year-olds were ostensibly excluded by peers during an online social interaction. Participants’ depressive symptoms were assessed via parental reports at the time of the scan and 1 year later. Region of interest and whole-brain analyses indicated that greater subACC activity during exclusion was associated with increases in parent-reported depressive symptoms during the following year. These findings suggest that subACC responsivity to social exclusion may serve as a neural marker of adolescents’ risk for future depression and have implications for understanding the relationship between sensitivity to peer rejection and the increased risk of depression that occurs during adolescence.
Abnormal eye contact is a core symptom of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), though little is understood of the neural bases of gaze processing in ASD. Competing hypotheses suggest that individuals with ASD avoid eye contact due to the anxiety-provoking nature of direct eye gaze or that eye-gaze cues hold less interest or significance to children with ASD. The current study examined the effects of gaze direction on neural processing of emotional faces in typically developing (TD) children and those with ASD. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 16 high-functioning children and adolescents with ASD and 16 TD controls viewed a series of faces depicting emotional expressions with either direct or averted gaze. Children in both groups showed significant activity in visual-processing regions for both direct and averted gaze trials. However, there was a significant group by gaze interaction such that only TD children showed reliably greater activity in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex for direct versus averted gaze. The ASD group showed no difference between direct and averted gaze in response to faces conveying negative emotions. These results highlight the key role of eye gaze in signaling communicative intent and suggest altered processing of the emotional significance of direct gaze in children with ASD.
Autism; facial expression; functional magnetic resonance imaging; gaze; developmental neuroimaging
Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are increasingly included in general education classrooms in an effort to improve their social involvement.
Seventy-nine children with ASD and 79 randomly-selected, gender-matched peers (88.6% male) in 75 early (K-1), middle (2nd–3rd), and late (4th–5th) elementary classrooms across 30 schools completed social network surveys examining each child’s reciprocal friendships, peer rejection, acceptance, and social involvement.
Across grade levels, peers less frequently reciprocated friendships with children with ASD than students in the matched sample. While children with ASD were not more likely to be rejected by peers, they were less accepted and had fewer reciprocal friendships than matched peers at each grade level. Although 48.1% of children with ASD were involved in the social networks of their classrooms, children with ASD were more likely to be isolated or peripheral to social relationships within the classroom across all grade levels, and this difference is even more dramatic in later elementary grades.
In inclusive classrooms, children with ASD are only involved in peers’ social relationships about half of the time, and appear to be even less connected with increasing grade level. Promoting children with ASD’s skills in popular activities to share with peers in early childhood may be a key preventive intervention to protect social relationships in late elementary school grades.
Autism; Social involvement; Inclusive education; Social networks
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by significant social impairments, including deficits in orienting attention following social cues. Behavioral studies investigating social orienting in ASD, however, have yielded mixed results, as the use of naturalistic paradigms typically reveals clear deficits whereas computerized laboratory experiments often report normative behavior. The present study is the first to examine the neural mechanisms underlying social orienting in ASD in order to provide new insight into the social attention impairments that characterize this disorder. Using fMRI, we examined the neural correlates of social orienting in children and adolescents with ASD and in a matched sample of typically developing (TD) controls while they performed a spatial cueing paradigm with social (eye gaze) and nonsocial (arrow) cues. Cues were either directional (indicating left or right) or neutral (indicating no direction), and directional cues were uninformative of the upcoming target location in order to engage automatic processes by minimizing expectations. Behavioral results demonstrated intact orienting effects for social and nonsocial cues, with no differences between groups. The imaging results, however, revealed clear group differences in brain activity. When attention was directed by social cues compared to nonsocial cues, the TD group showed increased activity in frontoparietal attention networks, visual processing regions, and the striatum, whereas the ASD group only showed increased activity in the superior parietal lobule. Significant group × cue type interactions confirmed greater responsivity in task-relevant networks for social cues than nonsocial cues in TD as compared to ASD, despite similar behavioral performance. These results indicate that, in the autistic brain, social cues are not assigned the same privileged status as they are in the typically developing brain. These findings provide the first empirical evidence that the neural circuitry involved in social orienting is disrupted in ASD and highlight that normative behavioral performance in a laboratory setting may reflect compensatory mechanisms rather than intact social attention.
autism; attention; functional magnetic resonance imaging; gaze; social cue
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are associated with abnormalities in face memory, which evidence suggests has a protracted development through adolescence. The development of face memory in people with and without ASD, from 9 to 29 years old, was examined using the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT). Results indicate that the developmental improvement evident from adolescence to adulthood typically was not apparent in individuals with ASD. While children and adolescents with ASD performed similarly to typically developing individuals comparable in age and IQ, adults with ASD displayed limitations on the CFMT. The pattern of performance was constant across conditions despite differences in the timing of the presentation and delay. This atypical development in ASD is consistent with the view that the processing of complex visual stimuli continues to develop through adolescence, along with the function and structure of the temporal lobes, but that this process is disrupted in ASD. This result underscores the importance of characterizing adolescent development for understanding ASD, and suggests additional opportunities for intervention.
development; developmental disorders; frontal; temporal; social cognition
An increasing number of fMRI studies are using the correlation of low-frequency fluctuations between brain regions, believed to reflect synchronized variations in neuronal activity, to infer “functional connectivity”. In studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), decreases in this measure of connectivity have been found by focusing on the response to task modulation, by using only the rest periods, or by analyzing purely resting-state data. This difference in connectivity, however, could result from a number of different mechanisms – differences in noise, task-related fluctuations, task performance, or spontaneous neuronal activity. In this study, we investigate the difference in functional connectivity between adolescents with high-functioning ASD and typically developing control subjects by examining the residual fluctuations occurring on top of the fMRI response to an overt verbal fluency task. We find decreased correlations of these residuals (a decreased “connectivity”) in ASD subjects. Furthermore, we find that this decrease was not due to task-related effects, block-to-block variations in task performance, or increased noise, and the difference was greatest when primarily rest periods are considered. These findings suggest that the estimate of disrupted functional connectivity in ASD is likely driven by differences in task-unrelated neuronal fluctuations.
Prior studies implicate facial emotion recognition (FER) difficulties among individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD); however, many investigations focus on FER accuracy alone and few examine ecological validity through links with everyday functioning. We compared FER accuracy and perceptual sensitivity (from neutral to full expression) between 42 adolescents with high functioning (IQ>80) ASD and 31 typically developing adolescents (matched on age, IQ, sex ratio) across six basic emotions and examined links between FER and symptomatology/adaptive functioning within the ASD group. Adolescents with ASD required more intense facial expressions for accurate emotion identification. Controlling for this overall group difference revealed particularly diminished sensitivity to sad facial expressions in ASD, which was uniquely correlated with ratings of autism-related behavior and adaptive functioning.
autism; emotion; face; symptomatology; adaptive functioning
Researchers have argued that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) use an effortful “systematizing” process to recognize emotion expressions, whereas typically developing (TD) individuals use a more holistic process. If this is the case, individuals with ASDs should show slower and less efficient emotion recognition, particularly for socially complex emotions. We tested this account by assessing the speed and accuracy of emotion recognition while limiting exposure time and response window. Children and adolescents with ASDs showed quick and accurate recognition for most emotions, including pride, a socially complex emotion, and no differences emerged between ASD and TD groups. Furthermore, both groups trended toward higher accuracy when responding quickly, even though systematizing should promote a speed-accuracy trade-off for individuals with ASDs.
Autism; Emotion recognition; Systematizing; Pride expression
Involvement with friends carries many advantages for adolescents, including protection from the detrimental effects of being rejected by peers. However, little is known about the mechanisms through which friendships may serve their protective role at this age, or the potential benefit of these friendships as adolescents transition to adulthood. As such, this investigation tested whether friend involvement during adolescence related to less neural sensitivity to social threats during young adulthood. Twenty-one adolescents reported the amount of time they spent with friends outside of school using a daily diary. Two years later they underwent an fMRI scan, during which they were ostensibly excluded from an online ball-tossing game by two same-age peers. Findings from region of interest and whole brain analyses revealed that spending more time with friends during adolescence related to less activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula—regions previously linked with negative affect and pain processing—during an experience of peer rejection 2 years later. These findings are consistent with the notion that positive relationships during adolescence may relate to individuals being less sensitive to negative social experiences later on.
adolescence; friendship; peer rejection; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Studies of explicit processing of facial expressions by individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have found a variety of deficits and preserved abilities compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. However, little attention has been paid to their implicit processing abilities for emotional facial expressions. The question has also been raised whether preferential attention to the mouth region of a speaker’s face by ASD individuals has resulted in a relative lipreading expertise. We present data on implicit processing of pseudo-dynamic facial emotions and visual speech in adolescents with autism. We compared 25 ASD and 25 TD participants on their ability to recreate the sequences of four dynamic emotional facial expressions (happy, sad, disgust, fear) as well as four spoken words (with, bath, thumb, watch) using six still images taken from a video sequence. Typical adolescents were significantly better at recreating the dynamic properties of emotional expressions than those of facial speech, while the autism group showed the reverse accuracy pattern. For Experiment 2 we obscured the eye region of the stimuli and found no significant difference between the 22 adolescents with ASD and 22 TD controls. Fearful faces achieved the highest accuracy results among the emotions in both groups.
Peer feedback affects adolescents’ behaviors, cognitions and emotions. We examined neural circuitry underlying adolescents’ emotional response to peer feedback using a functional neuroimaging paradigm whereby, 36 adolescents (aged 9–17 years) believed they would interact with unknown peers postscan. Neural activity was expected to vary based on adolescents’ perceptions of peers and feedback type. Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) activity was found when adolescents indicated how they felt following feedback (acceptance or rejection) from peers of low vs high interest. Greater activation in both cortical (e.g. superior temporal gyrus, insula, anterior cingulate) and subcortical (e.g. striatum, thalamus) regions emerged in response to acceptance vs rejection feedback. Response to acceptance also varied by age and gender in similar regions (e.g. superior temporal gyrus, fusiform, insula), with greater age-related increases in activation to acceptance vs rejection for females than males. Affective response to rejection vs acceptance did not yield significantly greater neural activity in any region. vlPFC response suggests cognitive flexibility in reappraising initial perceptions of peers following feedback. Striatal response suggests that acceptance is a potent social reward for adolescents, an interpretation supported by more positive self-reported affective response to acceptance than rejection from high- but not low-interest peers.
adolescence; cognitive flexibility; peer feedback; social reward
Functional neuroimaging studies of face processing deficits in autism have typically focused on visual processing regions, such as the fusiform face area (FFA), which have shown reduced activity in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), though inconsistently. We recently reported reduced activity in the inferior frontal region in ASD, implicating impaired mirror-neuron systems during face processing. In the present study, we used fMRI during a face processing task in which subjects had to match faces presented in the upright versus inverted position. Typically developing (TD) children showed a classic behavioral inversion effect, increased reaction time for inverted faces, while this effect was significantly reduced in ASD subjects. The fMRI data showed similar responses in the fusiform face area for ASD and TD children, with both groups demonstrating increased activation for inverted faces. However, the groups did differ in several brain regions implicated in social cognition, particularly prefrontal cortex and amygdala. These data suggest that the behavioral differences in processing upright versus inverted faces for TD children are related not to visual information processing but to the social significance of the stimuli. Our results are consistent with other recent studies implicating frontal and limbic dysfunction during face processing in autism.
Functional MRI; Autism; Asperger’s; Face processing; Face inversion; Development
One of the defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with language and communication.1 Children with ASD's onset of speaking is usually delayed, and many children with ASD consistently produce language less frequently and of lower lexical and grammatical complexity than their typically developing (TD) peers.6,8,12,23 However, children with ASD also exhibit a significant social deficit, and researchers and clinicians continue to debate the extent to which the deficits in social interaction account for or contribute to the deficits in language production.5,14,19,25
Standardized assessments of language in children with ASD usually do include a comprehension component; however, many such comprehension tasks assess just one aspect of language (e.g., vocabulary),5 or include a significant motor component (e.g., pointing, act-out), and/or require children to deliberately choose between a number of alternatives. These last two behaviors are known to also be challenging to children with ASD.7,12,13,16
We present a method which can assess the language comprehension of young typically developing children (9-36 months) and children with autism.2,4,9,11,22 This method, Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (P-IPL), projects side-by-side video images from a laptop onto a portable screen. The video images are paired first with a 'baseline' (nondirecting) audio, and then presented again paired with a 'test' linguistic audio that matches only one of the video images. Children's eye movements while watching the video are filmed and later coded. Children who understand the linguistic audio will look more quickly to, and longer at, the video that matches the linguistic audio.2,4,11,18,22,26
This paradigm includes a number of components that have recently been miniaturized (projector, camcorder, digitizer) to enable portability and easy setup in children's homes. This is a crucial point for assessing young children with ASD, who are frequently uncomfortable in new (e.g., laboratory) settings. Videos can be created to assess a wide range of specific components of linguistic knowledge, such as Subject-Verb-Object word order, wh-questions, and tense/aspect suffixes on verbs; videos can also assess principles of word learning such as a noun bias, a shape bias, and syntactic bootstrapping.10,14,17,21,24 Videos include characters and speech that are visually and acoustically salient and well tolerated by children with ASD.
Medicine; Issue 70; Neuroscience; Psychology; Behavior; Intermodal preferential looking; language comprehension; children with autism; child development; autism
Previous research has demonstrated the capacity of animal presence to stimulate social interaction among humans. The purpose of this study was to examine the interactions of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with an adult and their typically-developing peers in the presence of animals (two guinea pigs) compared to toys.
Ninety-nine children from 15 classrooms in 4 schools met the inclusion criteria and participated in groups of three (1 child with ASD and 2 typically-developing peers). Each group was video-recorded during three 10-minute, free-play sessions with toys and three 10-minute, free-play sessions with two guinea pigs. Two blinded observers coded the behavior of children with ASD and their peers. To account for the nested study design, data were analyzed using hierarchical generalized linear modeling.
Participants with ASD demonstrated more social approach behaviors (including talking, looking at faces, and making tactile contact) and received more social approaches from their peers in the presence of animals compared to toys. They also displayed more prosocial behaviors and positive affect (i.e., smiling and laughing) as well as less self-focused behaviors and negative affect (i.e., frowning, crying, and whining) in the presence of animals compared to toys.
These results suggest that the presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are associated with disturbances of neural connectivity. Functional connectivity between neural structures is typically examined within the context of a cognitive task, but also exists in the absence of a task (i.e., “rest”). Connectivity during rest is particularly active in a set of structures called the default network, which includes the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), retrosplenial cortex, lateral parietal cortex/angular gyrus, medial prefrontal cortex, superior frontal gyrus, temporal lobe, and parahippocampal gyrus. We previously reported that adults with ASD relative to controls show areas of stronger and weaker connectivity within the default network. The objective of the present study was to examine the default network in adolescents with ASD. Sixteen adolescents with ASD and 15 controls participated in a functional MRI study. Functional connectivity was examined between a PCC seed and other areas of the default network. Both groups showed connectivity in the default network. Relative to controls, adolescents with ASD showed widespread weaker connectivity in nine of the eleven areas of the default network. Moreover, an analysis of symptom severity indicated that poorer social skills and increases in restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests correlated with weaker connectivity, whereas poorer verbal and non-verbal communication correlated with stronger connectivity in multiple areas of the default network. These findings indicate that adolescents with ASD show weaker connectivity in the default network than previously reported in adults with ASD. The findings also show that weaker connectivity within the default network is associated with specific impairments in ASD.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging; development; symptom severity; Asperger’s syndrome; pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified
Although it has been suggested that individuals with an Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) process faces less holistically than typically developing controls, there are few direct investigations of this hypothesis. This question was addressed before using the composite paradigm (Teunisse & de Gelder, 2003). The results had revealed that adolescents with ASDs were less sensitive than controls to the misalignment of face parts and it was concluded their face processing was less holistic. However, because of shortcomings of the design, it was not possible to distinguish whether individuals with Autism processed both aligned and misaligned composites in a part-based fashion, or both in a holistic fashion. We compared adolescents with ASDs to controls matched on sex, age and IQ on a more complete version of the composite paradigm. The results indicate that individuals with ASDs, like controls, experience interference from facial features that they are told to ignore. However, while such interference is released for controls if parts of face composites are misaligned, individuals with ASDs show comparable interference from irrelevant parts regardless of alignment. Two different interpretations are discussed, both compatible with the idea that perceptual and or attentional abnormalities in ASDs result in a diminished level of expertise for faces.
Children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are generally included with typically developing peers at school. They have difficulties interacting with peers on the school play ground. Previous literature suggests that having play dates in the home may be related to better peer acceptance at school.
This study examines the relationship between mother-reported play date frequency and amount of conflict, and peer interaction observed on the school playground for a sample of 27 boys and 4 girls meeting structured interview and observation criteria for ASD. Measures of intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior, and social skills were included in a stepwise regression analysis to account for their impact on relationships between maternal play date reports, general peer acceptance at school (as rated by the child’s teacher) and observations of school playground behavior.
Results revealed that children with autism spectrum disorders who had more play dates in their home tended to spend a greater amount of time engaged in behaviors such as mutual offering of objects, conversing and other turn taking activities with peers on the school playground. They also received more positive responses to their overtures from peers. These relationships remained highly significant even after accounting for other demographic, general social, and cognitive variables.
The present results suggest that play date frequency is strongly related to school playground behavior. Due to the design of this study, future research must assess whether play dates in the home promote better peer relationships on the playground or the reverse. In either case, the assessment of play dates, as well as observation of spontaneous unsupervised social interactions are important outcome measures to consider in social skills interventions for children with high functioning ASD.
Social Skills; Autism; Asperger’s Disorder; Friendship
Although there is evidence of emotion perception deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), research on this topic has been mostly confined to perception of emotions in faces. Using behavioral measures and 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined whether such deficits extend to the perception of bodily expressed emotions. We found that individuals with ASD, in contrast to neurotypical (NT) individuals, did not exhibit a differential pattern of brain activation to bodies expressing fear as compared with emotionally neutral bodies. ASD and NT individuals showed similar patterns of activation in response to bodies engaged in emotionally neutral actions, with the exception of decreased activation in the inferior frontal cortex and the anterior insula in ASD. We discuss these findings in relation to possible abnormalities in a network of cortical and subcortical mechanisms involved in social orienting and emotion contagion. Our data suggest that emotion perception deficits in ASD may be due to compromised processing of the emotional component of observed actions.
autism; emotion; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); bodily expression; amygdala; pulvinar; subcortical processing; mirror neurons system
Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have great problems in social interactions including face recognition. There are many studies reporting deficits in face memory in individuals with ASDs. On the other hand, some studies indicate that this kind of memory is intact in this group. In the present study, delayed face recognition has been investigated in children and adolescents with ASDs compared to the age and sex matched typically developing group.
In two sessions, Benton Facial Recognition Test was administered to 15 children and adolescents with ASDs (high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome) and to 15 normal participants, ages 8-17 years. In the first condition, the long form of Benton Facial Recognition Test was used without any delay. In the second session, this test was administered with 15 seconds delay after one week. The reaction times and correct responses were measured in both conditions as the dependent variables.
Comparison of the reaction times and correct responses in the two groups revealed no significant difference in delayed and non-delayed conditions. Furthermore, no significant difference was observed between the two conditions in ASDs patients when comparing the variables. Although a significant correlation (p<0.05) was found between delayed and non-delayed conditions, it was not significant in the normal group. Moreover, data analysis revealed no significant difference between the two groups in the two conditions when the IQ was considered as covariate.
In this study, it was found that the ability to recognize faces in simultaneous and delayed conditions is similar between adolescents with ASDs and their normal counterparts.
Neurobehavioral Manifestations; Pervasive child development disorders; Psychophysiology
The purpose of this study is to examine the phonological and other vocal productions of children, 18-36 months, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to compare these productions to those of age-matched and language-matched controls. Speech samples were obtained from 30 toddlers with ASD, 11 age-matched toddlers and 23 language-matched toddlers during either parent-child or clinician-child play sessions. Samples were coded for a variety of speech-like and non-speech vocalization productions. Toddlers with ASD produced speech-like vocalizations similar to those of language-matched peers, but produced significantly more atypical non-speech vocalizations when compared to both control groups.Toddlers with ASD show speech-like sound production that is linked to their language level, in a manner similar to that seen in typical development. The main area of difference in vocal development in this population is in the production of atypical vocalizations. Findings suggest that toddlers with autism spectrum disorders might not tune into the language model of their environment. Failure to attend to the ambient language environment negatively impacts the ability to acquire spoken language.
Autism; phonology; autism spectrum disorders; atypical; vocalizations