DOI: 10.1101/512327Jan 4, 2019Paper

Social touch observation in adults with autism: intact neural representations of affective meaning but lack of embodied resonance

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Haemy Lee MassonBart Boets


Humans can easily grasp the affective meaning of touch when observing social interactions. Several neural systems support this ability, including theory of mind (ToM) and somatosensory resonance systems, but it is unclear how these systems are affected in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals with ASD are characterized by impairments in social interaction and the use of (non)verbal communication such as social and reciprocal touch. The present study applies an ecologically valid stimulus set and multivoxel pattern fMRI neuroimaging to pinpoint atypicalities in the neural circuitry underlying socio-affective touch observation in adults with ASD as compared to matched neurotypical controls. The MVPA results reveal that the affective meaning of touch is well represented in the temporoparietal junction, a core ToM mentalizing area, in both groups. Conversely, only the neurotypical group hosts affective touch representations in the somatosensory cortex, not the ASD group, yielding a significant group difference. Lastly, individuals with a more positive attitude towards receiving, witnessing, and providing social touch and with a higher score on social responsivity, show more differentiated representations of the affective mean...Continue Reading

Related Concepts

Autistic Disorder
Somatosensory Cortex
Neuronal Circuitry
Touch Sensation
Somatosensory Disorders
MinD protein, Arabidopsis
Wernicke Aphasia

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