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Training-induced plasticity of the social brain in autism spectrum disorder

  • Sven Bölte (a1), Angela Ciaramidaro (a2), Sabine Schlitt (a2), Daniela Hainz (a2), Dorit Kliemann (a3), Anke Beyer (a2), Fritz Poustka (a2), Christine Freitag (a2) and Henrik Walter (a4)...

Abstract

Background

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is linked to social brain activity and facial affect recognition (FAR).

Aims

To examine social brain plasticity in ASD.

Method

Using FAR tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks for FAR, we compared 32 individuals with ASD and 25 controls. Subsequently, the participants with ASD were assigned to FAR computer-aided cognitive training or a control group.

Results

The ASD group performed more poorly than controls on explicit behavioural FAR tests. In the scanner, during implicit FAR, the amygdala, fusiform gyrus and other regions of the social brain were less activated bilaterally. The training group improved on behavioural FAR tests, and cerebral response to implicit affect processing tasks increased bilaterally post-training in the social brain.

Conclusions

Individuals with ASD show FAR impairments associated with hypoactivation of the social brain. Computer-based training improves explicit FAR and neuronal responses during implicit FAR, indicating neuroplasticity in the social brain in ASD.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Sven Bölte, Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Neuropsychiatry Unit, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, CAP Research Center, Gävlegatan 22, S-11330 Stockholm, Sweden. Email: sven.bolte@ki.se

Footnotes

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These authors contributed equally to this work.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Training-induced plasticity of the social brain in autism spectrum disorder

  • Sven Bölte (a1), Angela Ciaramidaro (a2), Sabine Schlitt (a2), Daniela Hainz (a2), Dorit Kliemann (a3), Anke Beyer (a2), Fritz Poustka (a2), Christine Freitag (a2) and Henrik Walter (a4)...
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