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Neurosci Lett. 2016 May 16;621:117-125. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2016.04.026. Epub 2016 Apr 12.

Neural responses to affective and cognitive theory of mind in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry and Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
2
Department of Statistics, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Yongin, Republic of Korea.
3
Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
5
Department of Psychiatry and Institute of Behavioral Science in Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Electronic address: dhsong@yuhs.ac.

Abstract

Children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are characterized by an impaired Theory of Mind (ToM). Recent evidence suggested that two aspects of ToM (cognitive ToM versus affective ToM) are differentially impaired in individuals with ASD. In this study, we examined the neural correlates of cognitive and affective ToM in children and adolescents with ASD compared to typically developing children (TDCs). Twelve children and adolescents with ASD and 12 age, IQ matched TDCs participated in this functional MRI study. The ToM task involved the attribution of cognitive and affective mental states to a cartoon character based on verbal and eye-gaze cues. In cognitive ToM tasks, ASD participants recruited the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and superior temporal gyrus (STG) to a greater extent than did TDCs. In affective ToM tasks, both ASD and TDC participants showed more activation in the insula and other subcortical regions than in cognitive ToM tasks. Correlational analysis revealed that greater activation of the mPFC/ACC regions was associated with less symptom severity in ASD patients. In sum, our study suggests that the recruitment of additional prefrontal resources can compensate for the successful behavioral performance in the ToM task in ASD participants.

KEYWORDS:

Affective ToM; Autism spectrum disorder; Cognitive ToM; Functional MRI; Theory of mind

PMID:
27084690
DOI:
10.1016/j.neulet.2016.04.026
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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