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J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Feb;42(2):147-60. doi: 10.1007/s10803-011-1221-1.

Reward circuitry function in autism during face anticipation and outcomes.

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Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3366, USA.


The aim of this study was to investigate reward circuitry responses in autism during reward anticipation and outcomes for monetary and social rewards. During monetary anticipation, participants with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) showed hypoactivation in right nucleus accumbens and hyperactivation in right hippocampus, whereas during monetary outcomes, participants with ASDs showed hyperactivation in left midfrontal and anterior cingulate gyrus. Groups did not differ in nucleus accumbens responses to faces. The ASD group demonstrated hyperactivation in bilateral amygdala during face anticipation that predicted social symptom severity and in bilateral insular cortex during face outcomes. These results add to the growing body of evidence that autism is characterized by altered functioning of reward circuitry. Additionally, atypical amygdala activation during the processing of social rewards may contribute to the development or expression of autistic features.

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