Decreased eye contact with others is a common feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Eye contact is an important aspect of social interaction, but because it is difficult to image two brains simultaneously, scientists have so far investigated the neurology of live social interaction through eye contact in ASD. I was unable to study the underlying basis.
But researchers at Yale University have now developed a technique that can image the brains of two people, both alive and in their natural state. Using this technique, they identified specific brain regions in the dorsal parietal region associated with social symptoms of ASD. suggest that the neural responses of autism may provide a biological index that can be used for clinical classification and assessment of autism.
“Our brains are hungry for information about other people. We need to understand how it works,” said Elizabeth Mears, Joy Hirsch, a Jameson family professor of psychiatry, comparative medicine, and neuroscience at Yale University and co-corresponding author of the study.
A team at Yale University, led by James McPartland, Harris Professor of Hersh and Yale Center for Child Research, used functional near-infrared spectroscopy to identify typical and adult participants, including those with ASD. We analyzed brain activity during short social interactions between pairs. Noninvasive optical neuroimaging. Both participants wore caps with many sensors that emitted light into the brain, and changes in light signals were also recorded along with information about brain activity during face gaze and eye-to-eye contact.
The researchers found that during eye contact, participants with ASD had significantly reduced activity in a brain region called the dorsal parietal cortex compared to participants without ASD. In addition, social features of ASD as measured by the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition) score were associated with activity in this brain region. Neural activity in these areas was synchronized among typical participants during real eye-to-eye contact, but not during video face gazing. This expected increase was not observed in ASD, consistent with differences in social interactions.
“Not only do we now better understand the neurobiology and social differences in autism, but we also understand the underlying neural mechanisms that facilitate typical social connections.
See also: “Neural Correlations of Eye Contact and Social Functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders” Joy Hirsch, Sian Chang, J. Adam Noah, Swetasri Dravida, Adam Napoliz, Mark Taide, Julie M. Wolfe, James C. McPartland , 9 November 2022, pro swan.