The Neurobiology of Semantic Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Analysis

J Autism Dev Disord. 2021 Sep;51(9):3266-3279. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04794-9. Epub 2020 Nov 22.


Semantic processing impairments are present in a proportion of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite the numerous imaging studies investigating this language domain in ASD, there is a lack of consensus regarding the brain structures showing abnormal pattern of activity. This meta-analysis aimed to identify neural activation patterns present during semantic processing in ASD. Findings reveal activation of areas associated with semantic processing and executive functions in ASD. However, the activation was less concise in comparison to controls and there was less activation in the right hemisphere and in areas associated with executive functions. This provides strong support for impaired semantic processing in ASD that is consistently associated with abnormal patterns of neural activity in the semantic network.

Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Autism spectrum disorder; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Left inferior frontal gyrus; Semantic processing.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Semantics*