Poster D14, Monday, March 26, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Hierarchical Neural Representations Behind Naturalistic ‘Social Norm’ Perception In Autism and Controls
Felipe Pegado1, Hans Op de Beeck1; 1KU Leuven
Humans show a unique capacity to integrate information from multiple sensory and higher-order cognitive systems. Here, instead of studying one level of representation at a time, we designed a fMRI paradigm aiming to capture multiple brain representations simultaneously, from low-level processing all the way up to higher-order social representations. Our goal was to address a controversial topic: In which levels of the brain hierarchy high-functioning autism (HFA) differs from controls ? By using a naturalistic audio-visual ‘social norm’ mentalizing task (infering how ‘most people’ would judge the appropriateness of vocal responses), and multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), we could investigate multiple levels of representations at once. Our results show striking similar neural patterns in both groups at low and high level visual and auditory processing, with two exceptions: more low level visual information in Precuneus (PC) and more heterogeneity (uniqueness) of neural representations in ‘Voice Area’ for auditory stimuli in HFA. Further we also found similar neural substrates for social information in both groups: PC, Temporo-Parietal Junction (TPJ), and posterior medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) - a region often associated with allocentric mentalizing, but not in anterior mPFC, a region associated with self-related mentalizing. Despite that, at the behavioral level, HFA show much less ability to agree on the shared social norm representation, i.e., lower between-subjects correlation of response patterns across runs, while having the same level of intra-subject consistency (within-subjects correlations) as controls. These results shed light on the similarities and differences of HFA brain organization during ‘social norm’ inferences.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions