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Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2011;23(3):269-77.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging of facial information processing in children with autistic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and typically developing controls.

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National Research Council, Institute for Biodiagnostics, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the neural activation patterns of children diagnosed with autistic disorder (AD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and typically developing controls (TCs) in response to a task involving evaluation of facial expressions. Substantially greater functional activity was noted in TCs compared to both subjects diagnosed with AD and ADHD. Consistent with previous studies, differences in functional activation of the amygdala, fusiform gyrus, cerebellum, mesolimbic, and temporal lobe cortical regions of the brain during a task evaluating facial expressions were noted in AD compared to TCs. Differences in the neural activity in these brain regions were also observed in children diagnosed with AD compared to those diagnosed with ADHD. Overall decreased neural activity was observed during the faces task performance in the AD group compared to the other two groups, a finding consistent with studies using adults. Both TC and ADHD control groups showed increased inferior frontal cortex activity compared to the AD group. Significant activity was present in both TC and ADHD control groups in the insula which was absent in the AD group; this is consistent with other studies showing dysfunction of the mesolimbic system in children with AD. Although frontostriatal and mesolimbic systems appear to be affected in AD, these deficits were not in the same attentional networks which are dysfunctional in children diagnosed with ADHD.

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