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Functional Brain Correlates of Social and Nonsocial Processes in Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis

  • Adriana Di Martino
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Adriana Di Martino, M.D., Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience, NYU Child Study Center, 215 Lexington Avenue, New York NY 10016
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York

    Division of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
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  • Kathryn Ross
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York
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  • Lucina Q. Uddin
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York
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  • Andrew B. Sklar
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York
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  • F. Xavier Castellanos
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York

    Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, New York
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  • Michael P. Milham
    Affiliations
    Phyllis Green and Randolph Cowen Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the New York University (NYU) Child Study Center, New York, New York
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Published:November 10, 2008DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.09.022

      Background

      Functional neuroimaging studies of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have examined social and nonsocial paradigms, although rarely in the same study. Here, we provide an objective, unbiased survey of functional brain abnormalities in ASD, related to both social and nonsocial processing.

      Methods

      We conducted two separate voxel-wise activation likelihood estimation meta-analyses of 39 functional neuroimaging studies consisting of 24 studies examining social processes (e.g., theory of mind, face perception) and 15 studies examining nonsocial processes (e.g., attention control, working memory). Voxel-wise significance threshold was p < .05, corrected by false discovery rate.

      Results

      Compared with neurotypical control (NC) subjects, ASD showed greater likelihood of hypoactivation in two medial wall regions: perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in social tasks only and dorsal ACC in nonsocial studies. Further, right anterior insula, recently linked to social cognition, was more likely to be hypoactivated in ASD in the analyses of social studies. In nonsocial studies, group comparisons showed greater likelihood of activation for the ASD group in the rostral ACC region that is typically suppressed during attentionally demanding tasks.

      Conclusions

      Despite substantial heterogeneity of tasks, the rapidly increasing functional imaging literature showed ASD-related patterns of hypofunction and aberrant activation that depended on the specific cognitive domain, i.e., social versus nonsocial. These results provide a basis for targeted extensions of these findings with younger subjects and a range of paradigms, including analyses of default mode network regulation in ASD.

      Key Words

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