Neuroimaging

Introduction

In this lecture, Dr. Kevin Pelphrey discusses recent research, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the brain mechanisms involved in the typical and atypical development of social perception (the ability to understand the intentions and psychological dispositions of other people on the basis of biological motion cues) in typically developing children and children with autism.

Featured Reading

The featured reading for the Neuroimaging lecture comes from:

Pelphrey, K. A., Morris, J. P., & McCarthy, G. (2005). Neural basis of eye-gaze processing deficits in autism. Brain, 128, 1038-1048.

Here, using event-related functional MRI (fMRI), we show that in autism, brain regions involved in gaze processing, including the superior temporal sulcus (STS) region, are not sensitive to intentions conveyed by observed gaze shifts. We conclude that lack of modulation of the STS region by gaze shifts that convey different intentions contributes to the eye gaze processing deficits associated with autism.

Read the full text article at Brain: A Journal of Neurology at Oxford Journals.

Reading List

Below are selected readings from the Neuroimaging class meetingas well as a short annotation from Dr. Pelphrey on the reading material and a link to find the reading online or to purchase the book online.

Vander Wyk, B. C., Hudac, C. M., Carter, E. J., Sobel, D. M., Pelphrey, K. A. (2009). Action understanding in the superior temporal sulcus region. Psychological Science, 20, 771-777.

The posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS) region plays an important role in the perception of social acts, although its full role has not been completely clarified. This functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment examined activity in the STS region as participants viewed actions that were congruent or incongruent with intentions established by a previous emotional context. Activity in the right posterior STS region was sensitive to the congruency between the action and the actress's emotional expression (i.e., STS activity was greater on incongruent than on congruent trials). These findings suggest that the posterior STS represents not only biological motion, but also how another person's motion is related to his or her intentions.

Read the full article at Google Docs.

Pelphrey, K. A., Morris, J. P., McCarthy, G., & LaBar, K. S. (2007). Perception of dynamic changes in facial affect and identity in autism. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2, 140-149.

We compared brain activity with dynamic and static facial expressions in participants with and without high-functioning autism using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and three classes of face stimuli-emotion morphs (fearful and angry), identity morphs and static images (fearful, angry and neutral). We observed reduced activity in the amygdala (AMY) and fusiform gyrus (FFG) to dynamic emotional expressions in people with autism. There was also a lack of modulation by dynamic compared with static emotional expressions of social brain regions including the AMY, posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS) region and FFG. We observed equivalent emotion and identity morph-evoked activity in participants with and without autism in a region corresponding to the expected location of the more generally motion-sensitive area MT or V5. We conclude that dysfunctions in key components of the human face processing system including the AMY, FFG and posterior STS region are present in individuals with high-functioning autism, and this dysfunction might contribute to the deficits in processing emotional facial expressions.

Read the full article at PubMed Central.

Pelphrey, K. A., Morris, J. P., & McCarthy, G. (2005). Neural basis of eye-gaze processing deficits in autism. Brain, 128, 1038-1048.

Here, using event-related functional MRI (fMRI), we show that in autism, brain regions involved in gaze processing, including the superior temporal sulcus (STS) region, are not sensitive to intentions conveyed by observed gaze shifts. We conclude that lack of modulation of the STS region by gaze shifts that convey different intentions contributes to the eye gaze processing deficits associated with autism.

Read the full article at the Oxford Journals website.

Pelphrey, K. A., Mitchell, T. V., McKeown, M., Goldstein, J., Allison, T., & McCarthy, G. (2003). Brain activity evoked by perception of human walking: Controlling for meaningful coherent motion. Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 6819-6825.

By comparing responses in the STS with animations of human and robot walking figures, we determined (1) that the STS is sensitive to biological motion itself, not merely to the superficial characteristics of the stimulus. Then we determined that the STS responds more strongly to biological motion (as conveyed by the walking robot) than to (2) a nonmeaningful but complex nonbiological motion (a disjointed mechanical figure) and (3) a complex and meaningful nonbiological motion (the movements of a grandfather clock).

Read the full article at The Journal of Neuroscience's website.

Chapter 2, What Causes Autism? from "A Practical Guide to Autism".

Volkmar, Fred; Wiesner, Lisa. "A Practical Guide to Autism". John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey, 2009.

Find this book online at the Publisher's website.

Media and Other Resources

External Resources

Structural and Functional Neuroimaging of the Amygdala in Children with Autism- University of California Television
Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., of the U.C. Davis M.I.N.D. Institute presents an overview of neuroimaging research involving the amygdala as it relates to the neuropathology of autism.

Stanford Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory: Autism
The Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford University describes current research projects in the area of autism.

Autism Research Projects — Dager Neuroimaging Research Laboratory — University of Washington
The Dager Neuroimaging Research Laboratory at the University of Washington describes current research projects in the area of autism.

Imaging Sheds Light on Autism- Dolan DNA Learning Center
This article describes how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is being used to investigate autistic children's difficulty in processing social inputs. Several studies conducted at UCLA using fMRI are discussed.

Faculty and Guest Bios

Bio Profile

Kevin Pelphrey, PhD

Education

PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001

Research Interests

Brain; Child Development; Child Psychiatry; Neurosciences; Psychiatry; Psychiatry and Psychology; Psychology, Child; Translational Medical Research

Kevin Pelphrey is an internationally renowned neuroscientist and the parent of a young woman with autism. He utilizes brain science to develop biologically-based tools for detection, stratification and individually tailored treatments. He leads the NIH Autism Center for Excellence—Multimodal Developmental Neurogenetics of Autism network that spans seven national sites. He directs an NIH postdoctoral training program to prepare scientist-clinicians for independent careers translating...

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