The neural substrates of cognitive control deficits in autism spectrum disorders.

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.45). 06/2009; 47(12):2515-26. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.04.019
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Executive function deficits are among the most frequently reported symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), however, there have been few functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that investigate the neural substrates of executive function deficits in ASDs, and only one in adolescents. The current study examined cognitive control - the ability to maintain task context online to support adaptive functioning in the face of response competition - in 22 adolescents aged 12-18 with autism spectrum disorders and 23 age, gender, and IQ matched typically developing subjects. During the cue phase of the task, where subjects must maintain information online to overcome a prepotent response tendency, typically developing subjects recruited significantly more anterior frontal (BA 10), parietal (BA 7 and BA 40), and occipital regions (BA 18) for high control trials (25% of trials) versus low control trials (75% of trials). Both groups showed similar activation for low control cues, however the ASD group exhibited significantly less activation for high control cues. Functional connectivity analysis using time series correlation, factor analysis, and beta series correlation methods provided convergent evidence that the ASD group exhibited lower levels of functional connectivity and less network integration between frontal, parietal, and occipital regions. In the typically developing group, fronto-parietal connectivity was related to lower error rates on high control trials. In the autism group, reduced fronto-parietal connectivity was related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms.

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