Neural bases of Theory of Mind in children with autism spectrum disorders and children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits

O'Nions, Elizabeth and Sebastian, Catherine L and McCrory, Eamon and Chantiluke, Kaylita and Happé, Francesca and Viding, Essi (2014) Neural bases of Theory of Mind in children with autism spectrum disorders and children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits. Developmental Science, 17 (5). pp. 786-796. ISSN 1363-755X

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: Mar 17 2014
Subjects: Communication (incl. disorders of) > Autism
Disabilities & Disorders (mental & physical) > Behaviour Disorders
Department/People: Research
Related URLs:
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2168

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