Differential extrinsic brain network connectivity and social cognitive task-specific demands in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Few studies have used task-based functional connectivity (FC) magnetic resonance imaging to examine emotion-processing during the critical neurodevelopmental period of adolescence in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Moreover, task designs with pervasive confounds (e.g., lack of appropriate controls) persist because they activate neural circuits of interest reliably. As an alternative approach to “subtracting” activity from putative control conditions, we propose examining FC across an entire task run. By pivoting our analysis and interpretation of existing paradigms, we may better understand neural response to non-focal instances of socially-relevant stimuli that approximate real-world experiences more closely. Hence, using two well-established affective tasks (face-viewing, face-matching) with diverging social-cognitive demands, we investigated extrinsic FC from amygdala (AMG) and fusiform gyrus (FG) seeds in typically-developing (TD; N = 17) and ASD (N = 17) male adolescents (10–18 yo) and clinical correlations (Social Communication Questionnaire; SCQ) of group FC differences. Participant data (4TD, 6ASD) with excessive head-motion were excluded from final analysis. Direct between-group comparisons revealed significant differences between groups for neural response but not task performance (accuracy, reaction time). During face-viewing, we found greater FC from AMG and FG seeds for ASD participants (ASD > TD) in regions involved in the Default Mode and Fronto-Parietal Task Control Networks. During face-matching, we found greater FC from AMG and FG seeds for TD participants (TD > ASD), in regions associated with the Salience, Dorsal Attention, and Somatosensory Networks. SCQ scores correlated positively with regions with group differences on the face-viewing task and negatively with regions identified for the face-matching task. Task-dependent group differences in FC despite comparable behavioral performance suggest that high-functioning ASD may wield compensatory strategies; clinically-correlated FC patterns may associate with differential task-demands, ecological validity, and context-dependent processing. Employing this novel approach may further the development of targeted therapeutic interventions informed by individual differences in the highly heterogeneous ASD population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-239
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Amygdala
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Emotional faces
  • Fusiform gyrus
  • Task-related functional connectivity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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