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ERIC Number: EJ871878
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 18
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9630
Visual Attention in Autism Families: "Unaffected" Sibs Share Atypical Frontal Activation
Belmonte, Matthew K.; Gomot, Marie; Baron-Cohen, Simon
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, v51 n3 p259-276 Mar 2010
Background: In addition to their more clinically evident abnormalities of social cognition, people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) manifest perturbations of attention and sensory perception which may offer insights into the underlying neural abnormalities. Similar autistic traits in ASC relatives without a diagnosis suggest a continuity between clinically affected and unaffected family members. Methods: We applied fMRI in the context of a non-social task of visual attention in order to determine whether this continuity persists at the level of brain physiology. Results: Both boys with ASC and clinically unaffected brothers of people with ASC were impaired at a visual divided-attention task demanding conjunction of attributes from rapidly and simultaneously presented, spatially disjoint stimuli and suppression of spatially intervening distractors. In addition, both groups in comparison to controls manifested atypical fronto-cerebellar activation as a function of distractor congruence, and the degree of this frontal atypicality correlated with psychometric measures of autistic traits in ASC and sibs. Despite these resemblances between the ASC and sib groups, an exploratory, hypothesis-generating analysis of correlations across brain regions revealed a decrease in overall functional correlation only in the ASC group and not in the sibs. Conclusions: These results establish a neurophysiological correlate of familial susceptibility to ASC, and suggest that whilst abnormal time courses of frontal activation may reflect processes permissive of autistic brain development, abnormal patterns of functional correlation across a wider array of brain regions may relate more closely to autism's determinants.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A