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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • social perception;
  • social cognition;
  • functional MRI;
  • cognitive neuroscience

Abstract

In this review article, we summarize recent progress toward understanding the neural structures and circuitry underlying dysfunctional social cognition in autism. We review selected studies from the growing literature that has used the functional neuroimaging techniques of cognitive neuroscience to map out the neuroanatomical substrates of social cognition in autism. We also draw upon functional neuroimaging studies with neurologically normal individuals and individuals with brain lesions to highlight the insights these studies offer that may help elucidate the search for the neural basis of social cognition deficits in autism. We organize this review around key brain structures that have been implicated in the social cognition deficits in autism: (1) the amygdala, (2) the superior temporal sulcus region, and (3) the fusiform gyrus. We review some of what is known about the contribution of each structure to social cognition and then review autism studies that implicate that particular structure. We conclude with a discussion of several potential future directions in the cognitive neuroscience of social deficits in autism. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc. MRDD Research Reviews 2004;10:259–271.