Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 272–285

Neural and Behavioral Responses During Self-Evaluative Processes Differ in Youth With and Without Autism

  • Jennifer H. Pfeifer
  • Junaid S. Merchant
  • Natalie L. Colich
  • Leanna M. Hernandez
  • Jeff D. Rudie
  • Mirella Dapretto
Original Paper


This fMRI study investigated neural responses while making appraisals of self and other, across the social and academic domains, in children and adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Compared to neurotypical youth, those with ASD exhibited hypoactivation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex during self-appraisals. Responses in middle cingulate cortex (MCC) and anterior insula (AI) also distinguished between groups. Stronger activity in MCC and AI during self-appraisals was associated with better social functioning in the ASD group. Although self-appraisals were significantly more positive in the neurotypical group, positivity was unrelated to brain activity in these regions. Together, these results suggest that multiple brain regions support making self-appraisals in neurotypical development, and function atypically in youth with ASD.


Autism Self Ventral mPFC Anterior insula Middle cingulate cortex Development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer H. Pfeifer
    • 1
  • Junaid S. Merchant
    • 1
  • Natalie L. Colich
    • 2
    • 3
  • Leanna M. Hernandez
    • 3
  • Jeff D. Rudie
    • 4
  • Mirella Dapretto
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Psychology1227 University of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, David Geffen School of MedicineUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program, David Geffen School of MedicineUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Center for Autism Research and Treatment, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of MedicineUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of MedicineUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  7. 7.FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and DevelopmentUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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