Meta-analytic connectivity modelling of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in autism spectrum disorders

Brain Imaging Behav. 2023 Apr;17(2):257-269. doi: 10.1007/s11682-022-00754-2. Epub 2023 Jan 12.


Social and non-social deficits in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) persist into adulthood and may share common regions of aberrant neural activations. The current meta-analysis investigated activation differences between ASD and neurotypical controls irrespective of task type. Activation likelihood estimation meta-analyses were performed to examine consistent hypo-activated and/or hyper-activated regions for all tasks combined, and for social and non-social tasks separately; meta-analytic connectivity modelling and behavioral/paradigm analyses were performed to examine co-activated regions and associated behaviors. One hundred studies (mean age range = 18-41 years) were included. For all tasks combined, the ASD group showed significant (p < .05) hypo-activation in one cluster around the left amygdala (peak - 26, -2, -20, volume = 1336 mm3, maximum ALE = 0.0327), and this cluster co-activated with two other clusters around the right cerebellum (peak 42, -56, -22, volume = 2560mm3, maximum ALE = 0.049) Lobule VI/Crus I and the left fusiform gyrus (BA47) (peak - 42, -46, -18, volume = 1616 mm3, maximum ALE = 0.046) and left cerebellum (peak - 42, -58, -20, volume = 1616mm3, maximum ALE = 0.033) Lobule VI/Crus I. While the left amygdala was associated with negative emotion (fear) (z = 3.047), the left fusiform gyrus/cerebellum Lobule VI/Crus I cluster was associated with language semantics (z = 3.724) and action observation (z = 3.077). These findings highlight the left amygdala as a region consistently hypo-activated in ASD and suggest the potential involvement of fusiform gyrus and cerebellum in social cognition in ASD. Future research should further elucidate if and how amygdala-fusiform/cerebellar connectivity relates to social and non-social cognition in adults with ASD.

Keywords: Adult; Autism spectrum disorder; BrainMap; Meta-analysis; Meta-analytic connectivity modelling; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / pathology
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebellum
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Semantics
  • Young Adult