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Neuron. 2008 Feb 7;57(3):463-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.12.020.

Self responses along cingulate cortex reveal quantitative neural phenotype for high-functioning autism.

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Computational Psychiatry Unit, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Attributing behavioral outcomes correctly to oneself or to other agents is essential for all productive social exchange. We approach this issue in high-functioning males with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using two separate fMRI paradigms. First, using a visual imagery task, we extract a basis set for responses along the cingulate cortex of control subjects that reveals an agent-specific eigenvector (self eigenmode) associated with imagining oneself executing a specific motor act. Second, we show that the same self eigenmode arises during one's own decision (the self phase) in an interpersonal exchange game (iterated trust game). Third, using this exchange game, we show that ASD males exhibit a severely diminished cingulate self response when playing the game with a human partner. This diminishment covaries parametrically with their behaviorally assessed symptom severity, suggesting its value as an objective endophenotype. These findings may provide a quantitative assessment tool for high-functioning ASD.

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