Enhanced neural responses to rule violation in children with autism: A comparison to social exclusion

Academic Article


  • The present study aimed to explore the neural correlates of two characteristic deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs): social impairment and restricted, repetitive behavior patterns. To this end, we used comparable experiences of social exclusion and rule violation to probe potentially atypical neural networks in ASD. In children and adolescents with and without ASD, we used the interactive ball-toss game (Cyberball) to elicit social exclusion and a comparable game (Cybershape) to elicit a non-exclusive rule violation. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we identified group differences in brain responses to social exclusion and rule violation. Though both groups reported equal distress following exclusion, the right insula and ventral anterior cingulate cortex were hypoactive during exclusion in children with ASD. In rule violation, right insula and dorsal prefrontal cortex were hyperactive in ASD. Right insula showed a dissociation in activation; it was hypoactive to social exclusion and hyperactive to rule violation in the ASD group. Further probed, different regions of right insula were modulated in each game, highlighting differences in regional specificity for which subsequent analyses revealed differences in patterns of functional connectivity. These results demonstrate neurobiological differences in processing social exclusion and rule violation in children with ASD. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bolling DZ; Pitskel NB; Deen B; Crowley MJ; McPartland JC; Kaiser MD; Vander Wyk BC; Wu J; Mayes LC; Pelphrey KA
  • Start Page

  • 280
  • End Page

  • 294
  • Volume

  • 1
  • Issue

  • 3