What explains variability in brain regions associate with Theory of Mind in a large sample of neurotypical adults and adults with ASD?


Theory of mind (‘ToM’) tasks elicit highly reliable neural activity across individuals and experimental paradigms. We compared activity in a very large sample of neurotypical (‘NT’, N=477) individuals, and a group of high functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders (‘ASD’, n=27), using both region of interest (‘ROI’) and whole-brain analyses. Although ToM activity showed significant and reliable individual differences, these differences were not explained by participant gender or age, or most experimental parameters. Furthermore, there were no differences between ASD and NT individuals. These results imply that the social cognitive impairments typical of ASD can occur without gross changes in the size or response magnitude of ToM brain regions.

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