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New Study Suggests People With and Without Autism Experience the Same Brain Activity in Social Inter

While difficulties with socializing are one of the major challenges for many people on the autism spectrum, their patterns of brain activity during social interaction may not differ from those of typical people, according to a new large study from researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Mannheim, Germany. The study also found that on a test of intuiting other people’s emotional states, people with autism performed just as well as those without autism. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director of the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg, led the new study. According to a report by Spectrum News, the results of the new study appear to contradict smaller studies, which supported the idea that the brains of people with autism respond differently than those of non-autistic people in social situations, and that they struggle to infer other people’s thoughts. Meyer-Lindenberg said the results of the previous studies are not necessarily undermined by the new one, and that it is more likely that people with autism vary widely in their ability to read other’s mental states, and in a large-scale study, individual differences may be canceled out. For their research, Meyer-Lindenberg and his team scanned brain activity in 151 autistic and 123 typical boys and men, and brain activity in 54 autistic and 66 typical girls and women, between 7 and 31 years old. The researchers found that on average, people with and without autism performed similarly in a task that involved watching a cartoon of a small blue triangle and a large red triangle, and pressing a button to indicate whether the shapes were floating randomly across the screen, or performing a mock social interaction. The researchers found that key parts of the brain regions involved in social communication – collectively known as the “social brain” – were activated in all of the participants, both with and without autism. The results of the study were published February 22 in the journal Molecular Autism. Meyer-Lindenberg said he found the results to be “quite surprising.” For their next step, the researchers plan to explore the data on synchronization within the social brain and other brain areas. They also plan to study whether specific genetic or behavioral features in participants with autism are connected to differences in processing social interactions. Source: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/social-brain-activity-may-not-differ-in-some-autistic-people/

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