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The Language Neural Network in Autism

State/Province Full: 
United States

Several studies have measured brain activity while individuals with ASD perform language tasks and reported important differences in brain activity as compared to healthy individuals. However, these traditional studies are limited because performing the language task itself can interfere with the accuracy of the functional image. In order to solve this problem, this study will use a novel non-invasive approach combining transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with real-time functional magnetic resonance (fMRI). Real-time combined TMS/fMRI can identify the level of activity between frontal and temporal language-related areas without the potential interference of behavioral activation on the images. Findings will be complemented with those of diffusion tensor imaging, which characterize the anatomy of connections between the language-related regions. Using this new methodology, functional and anatomical information about connections between language-related regions in ASD and normal subjects independent of any behavioral confounders can be assessed. Significance: TMS has been shown to be effective in modulating brain activity, guiding brain plasticity, and thus exert therapeutic utility in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders. While the goal of this experiment is to characterize the language-related brain areas to gather information on how to modulate brain activity, the findings will be used to develop a new therapeutic strategy for improving language skills in ASD.