Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Symposium

fMRI activation during a language task in adolescents with ASD

TRACEY A. KNAUSa1 c1, ANDREW M. SILVERa1, KRISTEN A. LINDGRENa1, NOUCHINE HADJIKHANIa2a3 and HELEN TAGER-FLUSBERGa1

a1 Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts

a2 Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

a3 Brain Mind Institute, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by language and communication impairments, social impairments, and repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. Previous studies of semantic functions have found differences in semantic processing and differences in the activation of the language network in adults with ASD compared to controls. The goal of this study is to examine semantic functions in adolescents with ASD compared to typically developing adolescents. We utilized fMRI with a reading version of a response-naming task to investigate activation in 12 right-handed adolescent boys with ASD and 12 typically developing boys. Both groups performed the task at ceiling levels. Boys with ASD had significantly stronger activation than controls in Broca's area, which was less left lateralized in ASD individuals. Controls had a significant correlation between frontal and temporal language area activation in the left hemisphere, whereas ASD adolescents did not. Direct group comparisons revealed additional regions activated in the ASD group relative to the control group. These results suggest differences in semantic organization, approaches to the semantic task, or efficiency in semantic processing in ASD adolescents relative to typically developing adolescents. (JINS, 2008, 14, 967–979.)

(Received December 07 2007)

(Revised June 23 2008)

(Accepted June 26 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Tracey Knaus Ph.D., Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street L-814, Boston, MA 02118. E-mail: tknaus@bu.edu