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Neuropsychologia. 2008 Jan 15;46(1):269-80. Epub 2007 Aug 1.

Theory of Mind disruption and recruitment of the right hemisphere during narrative comprehension in autism.

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Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, United States.


The intersection of Theory of Mind (ToM) processing and complex narrative comprehension in high functioning autism was examined by comparing cortical activation during the reading of passages that required inferences based on either intentions, emotional states, or physical causality. Right hemisphere activation was substantially greater for all sentences in the autism group than in a matched control group suggesting decreased LH capacity in autism resulting in a spillover of processing to RH homologs. Moreover, the ToM network was disrupted. The autism group showed similar activation for all inference types in the right temporo-parietal component of the ToM network whereas the control participants selectively activated this network only when appropriate. The autism group had lower functional connectivity within the ToM network and also between the ToM and a left hemisphere language network. Furthermore, the within-network functional connectivity in autism was correlated with the size of the anterior portion of the corpus callosum.

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