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

Adriana Di Martino, Kathryn Ross, Lucina Q. Uddin, Andrew B. Sklar, F. Xavier Castellanos, Michael P. Milham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

332 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Volume65
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • autism
  • cognitive control
  • default mode network
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • insula
  • meta-analysis
  • pervasive developmental disorders (PDD)
  • positron emission tomography (PET)
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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