The Neural Circuitry Mediating Shifts in Behavioral Response and Cognitive Set in Autism

Psychology Department, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, USA.
Biological psychiatry (Impact Factor: 10.26). 06/2008; 63(10):974-80. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.06.028
Source: PubMed


Recent studies have suggested that the social and cognitive impairments in autism are associated with neural processing deficits in specific brain regions. However, these studies have primarily focused on neural systems responsible for face processing and social behaviors. Although repetitive, stereotyped behaviors are a hallmark of autism, little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these behaviors in the disorder.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural correlates of shifts in behavioral response and cognitive set in 18 individuals with high-functioning autism and 15 neurotypical control participants. Participants performed a target detection task specifically designed to distinguish shifts in response from shifts in cognitive set.
Individuals with autism showed lower accuracy on response shifting trials, independent of whether those trials also required a shift in cognitive set. Compared with control subjects, participants with autism showed reduced activation in frontal, striatal, and parietal regions during these trials. In addition, within the autism group, the severity of restricted, repetitive behaviors was negatively correlated with activation in anterior cingulate and posterior parietal regions.
These results suggest that executive deficits and, by extension, repetitive behaviors associated with autism might reflect a core dysfunction within the brain's executive circuitry.

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    • "Since deficits in these areas are often found in ASD (i.e. Goldberg et al. 2005; Schmitz et al. 2007; Shafritz et al. 2008; Steele et al. 2007; Stoet and López 2011; Sturm et al. 2004; Verté et al.2006; Williams et al. 2005), it is important to control for these functions in order to draw conclusions about inhibitory or flexibility deficits in ASD. Second, task conditions like degree of open-endedness, task structure and administration have been found to influence task performance (Teunisse et al. 2001; van Eylen et al. 2011; White et al. 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive control dysfunctions, like inhibitory and attentional flexibility deficits are assumed to underlie repetitive behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In the present study, prepotent response inhibition and attentional flexibility were examined in 64 high-functioning individuals with ASD and 53 control participants. Performance under different task conditions were tested both in response to visual and auditory information, and requiring a motor or verbal response. Individuals with ASD showed significant more control dysfunctions than typically developing participants on the auditory computer task. Inhibitory control and attentional flexibility predicted RRB in everyday life. Specifically, response inhibition in reaction to visual information and task switching in reaction to auditory information predicted motor and sensory stereotyped behavior.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 06/2015; 45(10). DOI:10.1007/s10803-015-2473-y · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    • "The prefrontal cortex (PFC), especially the lateral PFC (LPFC), has been associated with executive control and information integration during socio-emotional processing, and is a domaingeneral area [Corbetta and Shulman, 2002; Levy and Wagner , 2011; Romanski, 2007]. Deficits in LPFC responses have been found in individuals with ASD [Kaiser et al., 2010; Shafritz et al., 2008; Silk et al., 2006], supporting the hypothesis that ASD individuals have difficulty in integrating information from different modalities [Happe and Frith, 2006]. "
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    • "It is conceivable that lack of inferior frontal/insular activation in the HFA group reflects a more efficient neural processing of response inhibition, as performance was equivalent with controls. However, hypoactivation of VLPFC has been previously related to EF deficits in autism (Dichter and Belger, 2007; Kana et al., 2007; Shafritz et al., 2008). The current findings are in line with these prior results , and provide additional corroborative evidence for hypoactivation during response inhibition even with equivalent performance. "
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