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

Carolin Moessnang 1 Sarah Baumeister 1 Julian Tillmann 2 David Goyard 3 Tony Charman 2 Sara Ambrosino 4 Simon Baron-Cohen 5 Christian Beckmann 6, 7 Sven Bölte 8, 9 Carsten Bours 6, 7 Daisy Crawley 2 Flavio Dell'Acqua 2 Sarah Durston 4 Christine Ecker 10 Vincent Frouin 11 Hannah Hayward 2 Rosemary J Holt 5 Mark Johnson 12 Emily J Jones 12 Meng-Chuan Lai 13, 14, 5 Michael V Lombardo 5, 15 Luke Mason 12 Marianne Oldenhinkel 7, 6 Antonio M Persico 16, 17 Antonia San José Cáceres 2 Will Spooren 18 Eva Loth 2 Declan G. Murphy 2 Jan Buitelaar 7, 6 Tobias Banaschewski 1 Daniel Brandeis 1, 19, 20 Heike Tost 1 Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg 1 Eu-Aims Leap Group 
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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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 11:51:33 AM
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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, BioMed Central, 2020, 11 (1), pp.17. ⟨10.1186/s13229-020-0317-x⟩. ⟨pasteur-02490559⟩



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