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Dynamic topography of somatosensory and motor systems in individuals with autism

State/Province Full: 
United States

While deficits in the visual and auditory systems of individuals with autism have been well-studied, far less is known about deficits in somatosensory function and motor action. Using a technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG), this study will investigate the function of somatosensory and motor cortices in the brain of individuals with autism using tactile stimulation on the fingers, and compare the synaptic activity in brain circuits of individuals with autism to typically developing individuals. Based on computer modeling techniques, relative contributions of the somatosensory and motor cortices will be used to discriminate autistic individuals from those who are not affected. These measures will also indirectly test aspects of important theories about autistic function and has the potential to be used as a diagnostic tool on neural as well as behavioral data in the future. Significance: There is currently little knowledge about the function of the somatosensory cortex in both children and adults with autism. This area of the brain is important because sensorimotor deficits are common in ASD, yet the mechanism by which these dysfunctions occur have not been established. The response dynamics of neurons in this area will test current hypotheses of why individuals with autism show deficits in the integration of sensory processing and ultimately lead to a better understanding of the neural basis of autism.