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Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria
Print version ISSN 1516-4446
ZILBOVICIUS, Mônica; MERESSE, Isabelle and BODDAERT, Nathalie. Autism: neuroimaging. Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. [online]. 2006, vol.28, suppl.1, pp. s21-s28. ISSN 1516-4446. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-44462006000500004.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a range of clinical presentations. These presentations vary from mild to severe and are referred to as autism spectrum disorders. The most common clinical sign of autism spectrum disorders is social interaction impairment, which is associated with verbal and non-verbal communication deficits and stereotyped and repetitive behaviors. Thanks to recent brain imaging studies, scientists are getting a better idea of the neural circuits involved in autism spectrum disorders. Indeed, functional brain imaging, such as positron emission tomography, single foton emission tomographyand functional MRI have opened a new perspective to study normal and pathological brain functioning. Three independent studies have found anatomical and rest functional temporal lobe abnormalities in autistic patients. These alterations are localized in the superior temporal sulcus bilaterally, an area which is critical for perception of key social stimuli. In addition, functional studies have shown hypoactivation of most areas implicated in social perception (face and voice perception) and social cognition (theory of mind). These data suggest an abnormal functioning of the social brain network in autism. The understanding of the functional alterations of this important mechanism may drive the elaboration of new and more adequate social re-educative strategies for autistic patients.
Keywords : Autistic syndrome; Magnetic resonance imaging; Tomography; emission-computed; Acoustic stimulation; Auditive perception.