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Neuroimage Clin. 2013 Oct 24;3:489-97. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2013.10.011. eCollection 2013.

The brains of high functioning autistic individuals do not synchronize with those of others.

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1
Brain and Mind Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science (BECS), School of Science, Aalto University, Finland ; Advanced Magnetic Imaging (AMI) Centre, School of Science, Aalto University, Finland.

Abstract

Multifaceted and idiosyncratic aberrancies in social cognition characterize autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). To advance understanding of underlying neural mechanisms, we measured brain hemodynamic activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in individuals with ASD and matched-pair neurotypical (NT) controls while they were viewing a feature film portraying social interactions. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used as a measure of voxelwise similarity of brain activity (InterSubject Correlations-ISCs). Individuals with ASD showed lower ISC than NT controls in brain regions implicated in processing social information including the insula, posterior and anterior cingulate cortex, caudate nucleus, precuneus, lateral occipital cortex, and supramarginal gyrus. Curiously, also within NT group, autism-quotient scores predicted ISC in overlapping areas, including, e.g., supramarginal gyrus and precuneus. In ASD participants, functional connectivity was decreased between the frontal pole and the superior frontal gyrus, angular gyrus, superior parietal lobule, precentral gyrus, precuneus, and anterior/posterior cingulate gyrus. Taken together these results suggest that ISC and functional connectivity measure distinct features of atypical brain function in high-functioning autistic individuals during free viewing of acted social interactions. Our ISC results suggest that the minds of ASD individuals do not 'tick together' with others while perceiving identical dynamic social interactions.

KEYWORDS:

Asperger syndrome; Intersubject correlation; Movie; Social brain; fMRI

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