Enhanced parietal cortex activation during location detection in children with autism

Academic Article


  • Background: Visuospatial processing has been found to be mediated primarily by two cortical routes, one of which is unique to recognizing objects (occipital-temporal, ventral or "what" pathway) and the other to detecting the location of objects in space (parietal-occipital, dorsal or "where" pathway). Considering previous findings of relative advantage in people with autism in visuospatial processing, this functional MRI study examined the connectivity in the dorsal and ventral pathways in high-functioning children with autism. Methods: Seventeen high-functioning children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and 19 age-and-IQ-matched typically developing (TD) participants took part in this study. A simple visual task involving object recognition and location detection was used. In the MRI scanner, participants were shown grey scale pictures of objects (e.g., toys, household items, etc.) and were asked to identify the objects presented or to specify the location of objects relative to a cross at the center of the screen. Results: Children with ASD, relative to TD children, displayed significantly greater activation in the left inferior parietal lobule (especially the angular gyrus) while detecting the location of objects. However, there were no group differences in brain activity during object recognition. There were also differences in functional connectivity, with the ASD participants showing decreased connectivity of the inferior temporal area with parietal and occipital areas during location detection. Conclusions: The results of this study underscore previous findings of an increased reliance on visuospatial processing (increased parietal activation) for information processing in ASD individuals. In addition, such processing may be more local, focal, and detailed in ASD as evidenced from the weaker functional connectivity.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Deramus TP; Black BS; Pennick MR; Kana RK
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 1