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Journal Articles Molecular Autism Year : 2020

Social brain activation during mentalizing in a large autism cohort: the Longitudinal European Autism Project

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David Goyard
  • Function : Author
Tobias Banaschewski
  • Function : Author
  • PersonId : 891833
Eu-Aims Leap Group
  • Function : Author

Abstract

Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition with key deficits in social functioning. It is widely assumed that the biological underpinnings of social impairment are neurofunctional alterations in the "social brain," a neural circuitry involved in inferring the mental state of a social partner. However, previous evidence comes from small-scale studies and findings have been mixed. We therefore carried out the to-date largest study on neural correlates of mentalizing in ASD. Methods: As part of the Longitudinal European Autism Project, we performed functional magnetic resonance imaging at six European sites in a large, well-powered, and deeply phenotyped sample of individuals with ASD (N = 205) and typically developing (TD) individuals (N = 189) aged 6 to 30 years. We presented an animated shapes task to assess and comprehensively characterize social brain activation during mentalizing. We tested for effects of age, diagnosis, and their association with symptom measures, including a continuous measure of autistic traits. Results: We observed robust effects of task. Within the ASD sample, autistic traits were moderately associated with functional activation in one of the key regions of the social brain, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. However, there were no significant effects of diagnosis on task performance and no effects of age and diagnosis on social brain responses. Besides a lack of mean group differences, our data provide no evidence for meaningful differences in the distribution of brain response measures. Extensive control analyses suggest that the lack of case-control differences was not due to a variety of potential confounders.
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Dates and versions

pasteur-02490559 , version 1 (25-02-2020)

Licence

Attribution - CC BY 4.0

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Carolin Moessnang, Sarah Baumeister, Julian Tillmann, David Goyard, Tony Charman, et al.. Social brain activation during mentalizing in a large autism cohort: the Longitudinal European Autism Project. Molecular Autism, 2020, 11 (1), pp.17. ⟨10.1186/s13229-020-0317-x⟩. ⟨pasteur-02490559⟩
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