The self in autism: An emerging view from neuroimaging

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.
Neurocase (Impact Factor: 1.12). 06/2011; 17(3):201-8. DOI: 10.1080/13554794.2010.509320
Source: PubMed


One of the defining characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with social interaction and communication with others, or interpersonal interaction. Accordingly, the majority of research efforts to date have focused on understanding the brain mechanisms underlying the deficits in social cognition and language associated with ASD. However, recent empirical and theoretical work has begun to reveal increasing evidence for altered self-representation, or intrapersonal cognition in ASD. Here we review recent studies of the self in ASD, focusing on paradigms examining 'physical' aspects of the self, including self-recognition, agency and perspective taking, and 'psychological' aspects of the self, including self-knowledge and autobiographical memory. A review of the existing literature suggests that psychological, but not physical, aspects of self-representation are altered in ASD. One key brain region that has emerged as a potential locus of self-related deficits in ASD is the medial prefrontal cortex, part of a larger 'default mode network'. Collectively, the findings from these studies provide a more comprehensive framework for understanding the complex social, cognitive, and affective symptomatology of ASD.

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Available from: Lucina Q Uddin
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    • "with these findings, it has been proposed that declarative processes related to the Self are impaired (Lind, 2010; Uddin, 2011), while physical and embodied aspects of the Self, such as the sense of agency (SoA), are relatively preserved in this population (David et al., 2008a; Williams and Happé, 2009). However, previous evidence on SoA in individuals with ASD using different experimental paradigms has brought mixed results, with studies showing either preserved (David et al., 2008a; Williams and Happé, 2009) or impaired SoA (Grynszpan et al., 2012; Sperduti et al., 2014; Zalla et al., 2015). "
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    ABSTRACT: While a large number of studies have reported impairments in social and interpersonal abilities in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), relatively few studies have focused on self-related knowledge in this population. One of the processes implicated in the physical dimension of the Self is the sense of agency (SoA), i.e., the experience of initiating and controlling one's own actions and producing desired changes in the world via these actions. So far, the few studies investigating SoA in ASD have reported contrasting results, with some showing spared, others impaired SoA. Here, we review the existing literature and suggest that the distinction between prospective and retrospective mechanisms of the SoA might help reconcile the existing findings. In the light of a multi-componential model of SoA, we propose the view that a specific impairment at the level of prospective mechanisms acting on internal agency signals (i.e., the intention, action selection, or command produced to achieve the goal) may be responsible for the reduced SoA in ASD, along with spared retrospective mechanisms. Future research should shed light on the impact of abnormal SoA on social and self-related dysfunctions in ASD.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "The DMN is engaged in self-referential processing (Andrews-Hanna et al., 2010). Sufficient evidence has revealed that self-other awareness is either impaired or delayed in terms of development in ASD, including self-recognition, body awareness, and sense of agency (Uddin, 2011; Zhao et al., 2013). Previous studies have reported abnormalities of the DMN in ASD (Assaf et al., 2010; Kennedy and Courchesne, 2008; Washington et al., 2014), and another MVPA study also reported that DMN contains information to ASD classification (Anderson et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies examining low frequency fluctuations (0.01-0.08Hz) have revealed atypical whole brain functional connectivity patterns in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and these atypical patterns can be used to discriminate individuals with ASD from controls. However, at present it is unknown whether functional connectivity at specific frequency bands can be used to discriminate individuals with ASD from controls, and whether relationships with symptom severity are stronger in specific frequency bands. We selected 240 adolescent subjects (12-18 years old, 112 with autism spectrum disorder (101/11, males/females) and 128 healthy controls (104/24, males/females)) from 6 separate international sites in the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange database. Whole brain functional connectivity networks were constructed in the Slow-5 (0.01-0.027Hz) and Slow-4 (0.027-0.073Hz) frequency bands, which were then used as classification features. An accuracy of 79.17% (p<0.001) was obtained using support vector machine. Most of the discriminative features were concentrated on the Slow-4 band. In the Slow-4 band, atypical connections between the default mode network, fronto-parietal network and cingulo-opercular network were detected. A significant correlation was found between social and communication deficits as measured by the ADOS in individuals with ASD and the classification scores based on connectivity between the default mode network and the cingulo-opercular network. Connections of the thalamus were of the highest classification weight in the Slow-4 band. Our findings provide preliminary evidence for frequency-specific whole brain functional connectivity indices that may eventually be used to aid detection of ASD. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
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    • "Korkmaz, 2011). Disordered self in the schizophrenia spectrum (Parnas & Henriksen, 2014), self-defeating personality disorder (Reich, 1987) and autism (Uddin, 2011) are just a few of many more such diseases. Patients with disordered self-concepts may demonstrate selectively disordered Me1 or Me2 functions. "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent electroencephalography (EEG) studies accumulated evidence that support a dynamic view of the self (multiple aspect theory). In this study, we test the specific hypothesis of the multiple aspect theory of the self by using EEG data from the HisMine paradigm. In the HisMine paradigm German pronouns are visually presented in a stream of additional stimuli, while changes in brain activity are determined by means of EEG. At an early cortical processing stage, the presentation of the possessive pronouns " mein " (" my''), " sein " (" his ") and " dein " (" your ") elicited significantly different brain activities when compared to the non-personal pronoun " ein " (" a "). At a later processing stage, cortical processing of the self-related possessive pronoun ("mein") differed from the processing of all other possessive and the non-personal pronoun. In line with previous observations (and the multiple aspect theory of the self), the early effect (here referred to as Me1) was found at specifically left occipito-parietal electrode locations (e.g. PO9), whereas the later effect (here referred to as Me2) occurred specifically at the left fronto-temporal electrode site, F7. This finding supports the idea that the human self is consisting of multiple aspects. Potential implications are discussed. Walla form a cooperative partnership. Both authors contributed equally to this manuscript (shared first authorship and correspondence). Cornelia's own individual neurophysiological focus is on the self, language and emotion, and the development of novel paradigms. Peter's long-term interest focuses on an evolutionary perspective related to the development of the self. Their common applied interest is to unravel the boundary conditions of self-referential processing to contribute to a better understanding of clinical conditions with disordered self-aspects. In the present paper, EEG data from the HisMine paradigm was analysed with regard to the hypothesis of the multiple aspect theory of the self to test the validity and boundary conditions of this theoretical approach. The HisMine paradigm was developed by Cornelia Herbert within the framework of her grant HE5880/3-1. PUBLIC INTEREST STATEMENT The present study confirms previous findings supporting the idea that the human self is not a singular construct, but consists of at least two aspects that are processed by separate brain structures as part of a hierarchy. A Me1 represents any personal engagement (more like a We), while a Me2 then forms the proper self that is distinct and different from other. Those two aspects could represent developmental stages during early childhood. Further, respective knowledge might help to better diagnose and treat clinical conditions that are associated with disordered self-concepts.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015
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