Atypical effective connectivity of social brain networks in individuals with autism

Catherine Hanson, Joseph Ramsey, Clark Glymour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Failing to engage in joint attention is a strong marker of impaired social cognition associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The goal of this study was to localize the source of impaired joint attention in individuals with ASD by examining both behavioral and fMRI data collected during various tasks involving eye gaze, directional cuing, and face processing. The tasks were designed to engage three brain networks associated with social cognition [face processing, theory of mind (TOM), and action understanding]. The behavioral results indicate that even high-functioning individuals with ASD perform less accurately and more slowly than neurotypical (NT) controls when processing eyes, but not when processing a directional cue (an arrow) that did not involve eyes. Behavioral differences between the NT and ASD groups were consistent with differences in the effective connectivity of FACE, TOM, and ACTION networks. An independent multiple-sample greedy equivalence search was used to examine these social brain networks and found that whereas NTs produced stable patterns of response across tasks designed to engage a given brain network, ASD participants did not. Moreover, ASD participants recruited all three networks in a manner highly dissimilar to that of NTs. These results extend a growing literature that describes disruptions in general brain connectivity in individuals with autism by targeting specific networks hypothesized to underlie the social cognitive impairments observed in these individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-589
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Connectivity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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