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The atypical social brain network in autism

advances in structural and functional MRI studies

Sato, Watarua,*; Uono, Shotab,*

doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000713

Purpose of review To review advances in structural and functional MRI studies regarding the neural underpinnings of social atypicalities in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Recent findings According to the hypothesis that the social brain network, which includes brain regions, such as the amygdala and superior temporal sulcus, may be atypical in ASD, recent structural MRI studies have identified regional gray matter volume abnormalities in the social brain regions in ASD groups compared with the typically developing groups. Studies evaluating gray matter volume covariance and white matter volume/integrity suggested network-level abnormalities associated with the social brain regions. Recent functional MRI studies assessing resting-state neural activity showed reduced functional connectivity among the social brain regions in individuals with ASD compared with typically developing groups. Similarly, task-based functional MRI studies recently revealed a reduction in regional activity and intraregional functional coupling in the social brain regions during the processing of social stimuli in individuals with ASD.

Summary These structural and functional MRI studies provide supportive evidence for the hypothesis that an atypical social brain network underlies behavioral social problems in ASD.

aKokoro Research Center

bDepartment of Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry, Habilitation and Rehabilitation, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Correspondence to Wataru Sato, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University, 46 Shimoadachi, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan. E-mail:

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