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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Sep;14(3):319-51.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging of autism spectrum disorders.

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Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


This review presents an overview of functional magnetic resonance imaging findings in autism spectrum disorders (ASDS), although there is considerable heterogeneity with respect to results across studies, common themes have emerged, including: (i) hypoactivation in nodes of the "social brain" during social processing tasks, including regions within the prefrontal cortex, the posterior superior temporal sulcus, the amygdala, and the fusiform gyrus; (ii) aberrant frontostriatal activation during cognitive control tasks relevant to restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests, including regions within the dorsal prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia; (iii) differential lateralization and activation of language processing and production regions during communication tasks; (iv) anomalous mesolimbic responses to social and nonsocial rewards; (v) task-based long-range functional hypoconnectivity and short-range hyper-connectivity; and (vi) decreased anterior-posterior functional connectivity during resting states. These findings provide mechanistic accounts of ASD pathophysiology and suggest directions for future research aimed at elucidating etiologic models and developing rationally derived and targeted treatments.


autism spectrum disorder; cognitive control; connectivity; fMRI; functional magnetic resonance imaging; language; repetitive behavior; reward

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