Inflexibility in Autism Spectrum Disorder


on the December 16, 2019

Published in Brain Cogn

Collaborative research project led by Dr. M. Gomot et M. Latinus.

Inflexibility in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Need for certainty and atypical emotion processing share the blame


Although ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis requires the co-occurrence of socio-emotional deficits and inflexible behaviors, the interaction between these two domains remains unexplored. We used an emotional Wisconsin Card Sorting Test adapted to fMRI to explore this question. ASD and control participants matched a central card (a face) with one of four surrounding cards according to one of three rules: frame color, facial identity or expression. Feedback informed participants on whether to change or maintain the current sorting rule. For each rule, we modeled feedback onsets to change, switch (confirming the newly found rule) and maintenance events. "Bias error", which measures participants' willingness to switch, was larger in ASD participants for the emotional sorting rule. Brain activity to change events showed no group differences. In response to switch events significantly larger activity was observed for ASD participants in bilateral Inferior Parietal Sulci. Inflexibility in ASD appears characterized by the unwillingness to switch toward processing socio-emotional information, rather than a major disruption in cognitive flexibility. However, a larger activity to switch events in ASD highlights the need for a higher level of certainty before setting into a stable processing stage, which may be particularly detrimental in the highly changeable socio-emotional environment.

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


#Autism; #Cognitive #flexibility; #Emotion; #Faces; Facial expression; Inferior parietal sulcus; Set-shifting; #WCST; #fMRI

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