Annotation: The neural basis of social impairments in autism: the role of the dorsal medial-frontal cortex and anterior cingulate system
Article first published online: 4 AUG 2003
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 44, Issue 6, pages 793–809, September 2003
How to Cite
Mundy, P. (2003), Annotation: The neural basis of social impairments in autism: the role of the dorsal medial-frontal cortex and anterior cingulate system. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44: 793–809. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00165
- Issue published online: 8 OCT 2003
- Article first published online: 4 AUG 2003
- Manuscript accepted 12 March 2003
- Brain imaging;
- frontal cortex;
- anterior cingulate;
- joint attention;
- social orienting;
- social cognition;
Background: The fundamental social disturbance of autism is characterized, in part, by problems in the acquisition of joint attention skills in the first years of life, followed by impairments in the development of social cognition, as assessed on theory of mind (ToM) measures. Recently, studies have indicated that a system involving the dorsal medial-frontal cortex (DMFC), and the anterior cingulate (AC), may contribute to the development of the tendency to initiate joint attention in infancy. Similarly, research has implicated the DMFC/AC system in ToM performance in typical and atypical individuals. These data suggest it may be useful to consider the functions associated with this system in the developmental psychopathology of autism.
Method: A review of the studies of the connections between the DMFC/AC system, joint attention and ToM task performance.
Results and conclusions: This review raises the hypothesis that the DMFC/AC may be involved in the basic disturbance in social orienting in autism. The DMFAC/AC may also play a role in the capacity to monitor proprioceptive information concerning self-action and integrate this self-related information with exteroceptive perceptual information about the behavior of other people. A disturbance in these functions of the DMFC/AC may contribute to the atypical development of intersubjectivity, joint attention and social cognition that may impair the lives of people with autism. Thus, impairment in the development of this system may constitute a neural substrate for socio-cognitive deficits in autism.