Detection of the contingency between one's own behavior and consequent social events is important for normal social development, and impaired contingency detection may be a cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To depict the neural underpinnings of this contingency effect, 19 adults with ASD and 22 control participants underwent functional MRI while imitating another's actions and their actions being imitated by the other. As the extrastriate body area (EBA) receives efference copies of one's own movements, we predicted that the EBA would show an atypical response during contingency detection in ASD. We manipulated two factors: the congruency of the executed and observed actions, and the order of action execution and observation. Both groups showed the congruency effect in the bilateral EBA during imitation. When action preceded observation, the left EBA of the control group showed the congruency effect, representing the response to being imitated, indicating contingency detection. The ASD group showed a reduced contingency effect in the left EBA. These results indicate that the function of the EBA in the contingency detection is altered in ASD.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Being imitated; Extrastriate body area.
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