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Frontolimbic neural circuitry at 6 months predicts individual differences in joint attention at 9 months

Authors

  • Jed T. Elison,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, USA
    • Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Jason J. Wolff,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Debra C. Heimer,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Sarah J. Paterson,

    1. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, USA
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  • Hongbin Gu,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Heather C. Hazlett,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Martin Styner,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    3. Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • Guido Gerig,

    1. Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah, USA
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  • Joseph Piven,

    1. Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
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  • for the IBIS Network

    1. Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network, The IBIS Network is an NIH funded Autism Center of Excellence and consists of a consortium of SEVEN universities in the US and Canada. Clinical Sites, University of North Carolina
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Address for correspondence: Jed T. Elison, Caltech – HSS, 1200 E. California Blvd., MC 228-77 Pasadena, CA 91125, USA; e-mail: jelison@caltech.edu

Abstract

Elucidating the neural basis of joint attention in infancy promises to yield important insights into the development of language and social cognition, and directly informs developmental models of autism. We describe a new method for evaluating responding to joint attention performance in infancy that highlights the 9- to 10-month period as a time interval of maximal individual differences. We then demonstrate that fractional anisotropy in the right uncinate fasciculus, a white matter fiber bundle connecting the amygdala to the ventral-medial prefrontal cortex and anterior temporal pole, measured in 6-month-olds predicts individual differences in responding to joint attention at 9 months of age. The white matter microstructure of the right uncinate was not related to receptive language ability at 9 months. These findings suggest that the development of core nonverbal social communication skills in infancy is largely supported by preceding developments within right lateralized frontotemporal brain systems.

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