Neural Correlates of Theory of Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and the Comorbid Condition.
ABSTRACT: Theory of mind (ToM) or mentalizing difficulties is reported in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the mechanism underpinning these apparently shared deficits is relatively unknown. Eighty-three young adult males, 19 with ASD alone, 21 with ADHD alone, 18 with dual diagnosis of ASD and ADHD, and 25 typically developing (TD) controls completed the functional magnetic resonance imaging version of the Frith-Happé animated-triangle ToM task. We compared neural function during ToM with two non-ToM conditions, random and goal directed motions, using whole-brain and region-of-interest analysis of brain activation and functional connectivity analyses. The groups showed comparable ToM task performance. All three clinical groups lacked local connectivity increase shown by TD controls during ToM in the right temporoparietal cortex, a key mentalizing region, with a differentially increased activation pattern in both ASD and comorbid groups relative to ADHD. Both ASD groups also showed reduced connectivity between right inferior lateral prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices that could reflect an atypical information transmission to the mentalizing network. In contrast, with mentalizing both ADHD groups showed decreasing connectivity between the medial prefrontal and left temporoparietal cortices when compared to TD controls. Therefore, despite the complex pattern of atypical brain function underpinning ToM across the three disorders, some neurofunctional abnormalities during ToM are associated with ASD and appeared differentiable from those associated with ADHD, with the comorbid group displaying combined abnormalities found in each condition.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social impairments. The first objective of this study was to analyze social cognition deficits of children with ADHD, high-functioning ASD (HFASD), and typical development (TD) in their performance on explicit and applied measures of theory of mind (ToM). The second objective was to investigate the relationships between executive functions and social cognition in HFASD and ADHD. One hundred and twenty-six 7- to 11-year old children, 52 with HFASD, 35 with ADHD, and 39 with TD, performed the NEPSY-II social perception subtests. Parents estimated their children's ToM skills using the Theory of Mind Inventory (ToMI). Teacher-reported data from the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) were also obtained. The HFASD and ADHD groups showed worse performance on the verbal ToM task than the TD group, and only the performance of the HFASD group was significantly lower than the TD group on the contextual ToM task. Parents also estimated that the HFASD group had more difficulties on the applied ToM than the ADHD and TD groups. Furthermore, there is a different executive function-theory of mind link in the HFASD and ADHD groups: behavioral regulation processes such as inhibition and emotional control are more associated with social cognition in children with ADHD, whereas metacognitive processes such as initiation and planning have a strong association with social cognition in children with HFASD. These findings have implications for understanding social perception deficits in neurodevelopmental disorders, highlighting the need for early intervention.
Project description:Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty understanding other minds (Theory of Mind; ToM), with atypical processing evident at both behavioural and neural levels. Individuals with conduct problems and high levels of callous-unemotional (CU) traits (CP/HCU) exhibit reduced responsiveness to others' emotions and difficulties interacting with others, but nonetheless perform normally in experimental tests of ToM. The present study aimed to examine the neural underpinnings of ToM in children (aged 10-16) with ASD (N = 16), CP/HCU (N = 16) and typically developing (TD) controls (N = 16) using a non-verbal cartoon vignette task. Whilst individuals with ASD were predicted to show reduced fMRI responses across regions involved in ToM processing, CP/HCU individuals were predicted to show no differences compared with TD controls. The analyses indicated that neural responses did not differ between TD and CP/HCU groups during ToM. TD and CP/HCU children exhibited significantly greater medial prefrontal cortex responses during ToM than did the ASD group. Within the ASD group, responses in medial prefrontal cortex and right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) correlated with symptom severity as measured by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Findings suggest that although both ASD and CP/HCU are characterized by social difficulties, only children with ASD display atypical neural processing associated with ToM.
Project description:Theory of mind (ToM) deficits are common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which contribute to their social and cognitive difficulties. The social attribution task (SAT) involves geometrical shapes moving in patterns that depict social interactions and is known to recruit brain regions from the classic ToM network. To better understand ToM in ASD and ADHD children, we examined the neural correlates using the SAT and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a cohort of 200 children: ASD (N = 76), ADHD (N = 74) and typically developing (TD; N = 50) (4-19 years). In the scanner, participants were presented with SAT videos corresponding to social help, social threat, and random conditions. Contrasting social vs. random, the ASD compared with TD children showed atypical activation in ToM brain areas-the middle temporal and anterior cingulate gyri. In the social help vs. social threat condition, atypical activation of the bilateral middle cingulate and right supramarginal and superior temporal gyri was shared across the NDD children, with between-diagnosis differences only being observed in the right fusiform. Data-driven subgrouping identified two distinct subgroups spanning all groups that differed in both their clinical characteristics and brain-behaviour relations with ToM ability.
Project description:<b>Purpose:</b> This study aimed to explore alterations in functional connectivity (FC) within and between default mode network (DMN), central executive network, and salience network in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with co-occurring attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). <b>Method:</b> A total of 135 individuals' date of the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange II was used to compare the ASD+ADHD group with the ASD group in relation to the abnormal within-network and between-network connectivity of the ASD group relative to the TD group; consequently, the correlation analysis between abnormal FC and behavior was performed. <b>Results:</b> The ASD+ADHD group exhibited decreased within-network connectivity in the precuneus of the ventral DMN compared with the ASD group. Among the three groups, the ASD+ADHD group showed lower connectivity, whereas the ASD group had higher connectivity than the TD group, although the effect of the separate <i>post hoc</i> test was not significant. Meanwhile, the ASD+ADHD group showed increased between-network connectivity between the ventral DMN and dorsal DMN and between the ventral DMN and left executive control network, compared with the ASD and TD groups. <b>Conclusion:</b> Dysfunction of DMN in the "triple-network model" is the core evidence for ASD with co-occurring ADHD.
Project description:Cortical networks underpinning attentional control and mentalizing converge at the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ). It is debated whether the rTPJ is fractionated in neighboring, but separate functional modules underpinning attentional control and mentalizing, or whether one overarching cognitive mechanism explains the rTPJ's role in both domains. Addressing this question, we combined attentional control and mentalizing in a factorial design within one task. We added a social context condition, in which another individual's mental states became apparently task-relevant, to a spatial cueing paradigm. This allowed for assessing cue validity- and context-dependent functional activity and effective connectivity of the rTPJ within corresponding cortical networks. We found two discriminable rTPJ subregions, an anterior and a posterior one. Yet, we did not observe a sharp functional dissociation between these two, as both regions responded to attention cueing and social context manipulation. The results suggest that the rTPJ is part of both the ventral attention and the ToM network and that its function is defined by context-dependent coupling with the respective network. We argue that the rTPJ as a functional unit underpins an overarching cognitive mechanism in attentional control and mentalizing and discuss how the present results help to further specify this mechanism.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Current diagnostic systems for neurodevelopmental disorders do not have clear links to underlying neurobiology, limiting their utility in identifying targeted treatments for individuals. Here, we aimed to investigate differences in functional brain network integrity between traditional diagnostic categories (autism spectrum disorder [ASD], attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], typically developing [TD]) and carefully consider the impact of comorbid ASD and ADHD on functional brain network integrity in a sample adequately powered to detect large effects. We also assess the neurobiological separability of a novel, potential alternative categorical scheme based on behavioral measures of executive function.<h4>Method</h4>Five-minute resting-state fMRI data were obtained from 168 children (128 boys, 40 girls) with ASD, ADHD, comorbid ASD and ADHD, and TD children. Independent component analysis and dual regression were used to compute within- and between-network functional connectivity metrics at the individual level.<h4>Results</h4>No significant group differences in within- or between-network functional connectivity were observed between traditional diagnostic categories (ASD, ADHD, TD) even when stratified by comorbidity (ASD + ADHD, ASD, ADHD, TD). Similarly, subgroups classified by executive functioning levels showed no group differences.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Using clinical diagnosis and behavioral measures of executive function, no differences in functional connectivity were observed among the categories examined. Despite our limited ability to detect small- to medium-sized differences between groups, this work contributes to a growing literature suggesting that traditional diagnostic categories do not define neurobiologically separable groups. Future work is necessary to ascertain the validity of the executive function-based nosology, but current results suggest that nosologies reliant on behavioral data alone may not lead to discovery of neurobiologically distinct categories.
Project description:Converging evidence indicates that brain abnormalities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involve atypical network connectivity, but it is unclear whether altered connectivity is especially prominent in brain networks that participate in social cognition.To investigate whether adolescents with ASD show altered functional connectivity in 2 brain networks putatively impaired in ASD and involved in social processing, theory of mind (ToM) and mirror neuron system (MNS).Cross-sectional study using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging involving 25 adolescents with ASD between the ages of 11 and 18 years and 25 typically developing adolescents matched for age, handedness, and nonverbal IQ.Statistical parametric maps testing the degree of whole-brain functional connectivity and social functioning measures.Relative to typically developing controls, participants with ASD showed a mixed pattern of both over- and underconnectivity in the ToM network, which was associated with greater social impairment. Increased connectivity in the ASD group was detected primarily between the regions of the MNS and ToM, and was correlated with sociocommunicative measures, suggesting that excessive ToM-MNS cross talk might be associated with social impairment. In a secondary analysis comparing a subset of the 15 participants with ASD with the most severe symptomology and a tightly matched subset of 15 typically developing controls, participants with ASD showed exclusive overconnectivity effects in both ToM and MNS networks, which were also associated with greater social dysfunction.Adolescents with ASD showed atypically increased functional connectivity involving the mentalizing and mirror neuron systems, largely reflecting greater cross talk between the 2. This finding is consistent with emerging evidence of reduced network segregation in ASD and challenges the prevailing theory of general long-distance underconnectivity in ASD. This excess ToM-MNS connectivity may reflect immature or aberrant developmental processes in 2 brain networks involved in understanding of others, a domain of impairment in ASD. Further, robust links with sociocommunicative symptoms of ASD implicate atypically increased ToM-MNS connectivity in social deficits observed in ASD.
Project description:Attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are two of the most common and vexing neurodevelopmental disorders among children. Although the two disorders share many behavioral and neuropsychological characteristics, most MRI studies examine only one of the disorders at a time. Using graph theory combined with structural and functional connectivity, we examined the large-scale network organization among three groups of children: a group with ADHD (8-12 years, n = 20), a group with ASD (7-13 years, n = 16), and typically developing controls (TD) (8-12 years, n = 20). We apply the concept of the rich-club organization, whereby central, highly connected hub regions are also highly connected to themselves. We examine the brain into two different network domains: (1) inside a rich-club network phenomena and (2) outside a rich-club network phenomena. The ASD and ADHD groups had markedly different patterns of rich club and non rich-club connections in both functional and structural data. The ASD group exhibited higher connectivity in structural and functional networks but only inside the rich-club networks. These findings were replicated using the autism brain imaging data exchange dataset with ASD (n = 85) and TD (n = 101). The ADHD group exhibited a lower generalized fractional anisotropy and functional connectivity inside the rich-club networks, but a higher number of axonal fibers and correlation coefficient values outside the rich club. Despite some shared biological features and frequent comorbity, these data suggest ADHD and ASD exhibit distinct large-scale connectivity patterns in middle childhood.
Project description:Prescription of psychotropic medications is common in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), either off-label or to treat comorbid conditions such as ADHD or depression. Psychotropic medications are intended to alter brain function. Yet, studies investigating the functional brain organization in ASDs rarely take medication usage into account. This could explain some of the inconsistent findings of atypical brain network connectivity reported in the autism literature.The current study tested whether functional connectivity patterns, as assessed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), differed in a cohort of 49 children and adolescents with ASDs based on psychotropic medication status, and in comparison with 50 matched typically developing (TD) participants. Twenty-five participants in the ASD group (51%) reported current psychotropic medication usage, including stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics. Age, IQ, head motion, and ASD symptom severity did not differ between groups. Whole-brain functional connectivity between 132 regions of interest was assessed.Different functional connectivity patterns were identified in the ASD group taking psychotropic medications (ASD-on), as compared to the TD group and the ASD subgroup not using psychotropic medications (ASD-none). The ASD-on group showed distinct underconnectivity between the cerebellum and basal ganglia but cortico-cortical overconnectivity compared to the TD group. Cortical underconnectivity relative to the TD pattern, on the other hand, was pronounced in the ASD-none group.These results suggest that psychotropic medications may affect functional connectivity, and that medication status should be taken into consideration when studying brain function in autism.
Project description:In recent years, structural and functional alterations in the cerebellum have been reported in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Intriguingly, recent studies demonstrated that the social behavioral profile of individuals with cerebellar pathologies is characterized by a theory of mind (ToM) impairment, one of the main behavioral hallmarks of ASD. The aim of the present study was to compare ToM abilities and underlying cerebello-cortical structural patterns between ASD individuals and individuals with cerebellar atrophy to further specify the cerebellar role in mentalizing alterations in ASD. Twenty-one adults with ASD without language and intellectual impairments (based on DSM-5), 36 individuals affected by degenerative cerebellar damage (CB), and 67 healthy participants were enrolled in the study. ToM abilities were assessed using the reading the mind in the eyes test and the faux pas test. One-way ANCOVA was conducted to compare the performances between the two cohorts. Three-dimensional T1-weighted magnetic resonance scans were collected, and a voxel-based morphometry analysis was performed to characterize the brain structural alterations in the two cohorts. ASD and CB participants had comparable ToM performance with similar difficulties in both the tests. CB and ASD participants showed an overlapping pattern of gray matter (GM) reduction in a specific cerebellar portion (Crus-II). Our study provides the first direct comparison of ToM abilities between ASD and CB individuals, boosting the idea that specific cerebellar structural alterations impact the mentalizing process. The present findings open a new perspective for considering the cerebellum as a potential target for treatment implementation. The present work will critically advance current knowledge about the cerebellar role in ToM alterations of ASD, in particular, elucidating the presence of common cerebellar structural abnormalities in ASD and cerebellar individuals that may underlie specific mentalizing alterations. These findings may pave the way for alternative therapeutic indications, such as cerebellar neuromodulation, with a strong clinical impact. LAY SUMMARY: The present work will critically advance current knowledge about the cerebellar role in theory of mind alterations of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in particular, elucidating the presence of common cerebellar structural abnormalities in ASD and cerebellar individuals that may underlie specific mentalizing alterations. These findings may pave the way for alternative therapeutic indications, such as cerebellar neuromodulation, with a strong clinical impact.