Differences in functional brain organization during gesture recognition between autistic and neurotypical individuals
Trujillo, J. P., Özyürek, A., Kan, C., Sheftel-Simanova, I., & Bekkering, H.
Differences in functional brain organization during gesture recognition between autistic and neurotypical individuals. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 17
(11), 1021-1034. doi:10.1093/scan/nsac026.
Persons with and without autism process sensory information differently. Differences in sensory processing are directly relevant to social functioning and communicative abilities, which are known to be hampered in persons with autism. We collected functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 25 autistic individuals and 25 neurotypical individuals while they performed a silent gesture recognition task. We exploited brain network topology, a holistic quantification of how networks within the brain are organized to provide new insights into how visual communicative signals are processed in autistic and neurotypical individuals. Performing graph theoretical analysis, we calculated two network properties of the action observation network: local efficiency, as a measure of network segregation, and global efficiency, as a measure of network integration. We found that persons with autism and neurotypical persons differ in how the action observation network is organized. Persons with autism utilize a more clustered, local-processing-oriented network configuration (i.e., higher local efficiency), rather than the more integrative network organization seen in neurotypicals (i.e., higher global efficiency). These results shed new light on the complex interplay between social and sensory processing in autism.