Hemispheric differences in language processing in autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies

Academic Article


  • Language impairments, a hallmark feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), have been related to neuroanatomical and functional abnormalities. Abnormal lateralization of the functional language network, increased reliance on visual processing areas, and increased posterior brain activation have all been reported in ASD and proposed as explanatory models of language difficulties. Nevertheless, inconsistent findings across studies have prevented a comprehensive characterization of the functional language network in ASD. The aim of this study was to quantify common and consistent patterns of brain activation during language processing in ASD and typically developing control (TD) participants using a meta-analytic approach. Activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis was used to examine 22 previously published functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)/positron emission tomography studies of language processing (ASD: N = 328; TD: N = 324). Tasks included in this study addressed semantic processing, sentence comprehension, processing figurative language, and speech production. Within-group analysis showed largely overlapping patterns of language-related activation in ASD and TD groups. However, the ASD participants, relative to TD participants, showed: (1) more right hemisphere activity in core language areas (i.e., superior temporal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus), particularly in tasks where they had poorer performance accuracy; (2) bilateral MTG hypo-activation across many different paradigms; and (3) increased activation of the left lingual gyrus in tasks where they had intact performance. These findings show that the hypotheses reviewed here address the neural and cognitive aspects of language difficulties in ASD across all tasks only in a limited way. Instead, our findings suggest the nuances of language and brain in ASD in terms of its context-dependency. Autism Res 2016, 9: 1046–1057. © 2016 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 22370729
  • Author List

  • Herringshaw AJ; Ammons CJ; DeRamus TP; Kana RK
  • Start Page

  • 1046
  • End Page

  • 1057
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 10