Carnegie Mellon University

IMaGES in the Brain: Catherine Hanson

Abstract: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by impaired social cognition. Three cognitive processes have been associated with processing social information: 1) Theory of Mind, 2) face processing, and action understanding. Neuroimaging studies have identified specific regions of the brain associated with processing social information that respond atypically in individuals with ASD. However, there is growing evidence that any brain region may be recruited by more than one cognitive process and that the role played by that region can vary as a function of the task being performed. Graphical analysis provides a means of observing the temporal interaction of brain regions engaged during cognitive processing and thereby clarifying the role of brain regions recruited during the performance of a task. For the first time, a graphical analysis was used to compare brain connectivity patterns for the three networks associated with social cognition in individuals with ASD and in neurotypicals. The results of this analysis, using IMaGES, indicates that face processing is not atypical in individuals with ASD, although both Theory of Mind and action understanding networks are recruited differently by these subjects than by neurotypicals.