Poster E52, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Distinguishing semantic and social neural networks in neurotypicals and autism
Hillary Levinson1, Miriam Rosenberg-Lee1, William Graves1; 1Rutgers University
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects roughly 1 in 68 US children. While primary language impairment is not always present, even high-functioning individuals with ASD have difficulty with abstract semantics and pragmatic language. It remains unknown whether these difficulties arise from social deficits or from difficulty with semantic abstraction. In neurotypicals (NTs), cortical networks supporting semantics (word meanings) and social cognition largely overlap, notably in the left inferior parietal lobe. Recent evidence suggests these networks may be distinguished by connectivity from distinct but adjacent regions: angular gyrus (AG) for semantics, and temporoparietal junction (TPJ) for social cognition. We tested whether social cognitive abilities were related to connectivity in the social or semantic networks across a sample of 26 ASD and 26 NT individuals. We correlated resting state functional connectivity of the AG and TPJ with the social cognition subscale of the social responsiveness scale (SRS-Cog, higher scores = poorer social cognitive abilities). While SRS-Cog scores differed significantly between the groups (MASD=68.5; MNT=44.27), there were no group differences in AG or TPJ connectivity. Rather, SRS-Cog scores were negatively correlated with connectivity between left AG and posterior cingulate, and positively correlated with AG to middle frontal gyrus (MFG) connectivity. These results suggest that difficulties with social cognition in individuals with autism may be related to aberrant connectivity within the semantic – but not social – network. Increased AG-MFG connectivity suggests that individuals with social cognitive difficulties may recruit prefrontal resources to support semantic processing, a hypothesis we will examine in future task-based studies.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Semantic