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New approaches to investigating social gestures in autism spectrum disorder

Kenneth T Kishida1, Jian Li2, Justin Schwind3 and Pendleton Read Montague1456*

  • * Corresponding author: Pendleton R Montague

Author Affiliations

1 Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA, 24016, USA

2 Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, 10003, USA

3 Department of Athletics, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, 36608, USA

4 Department of Physics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 24061, USA

5 Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, 12 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK

6 Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute & Department of Physics, Virginia Tech, 2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA, 24018, USA

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Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders 2012, 4:14  doi:10.1186/1866-1955-4-14

Published: 24 May 2012


The combination of economic games and human neuroimaging presents the possibility of using economic probes to identify biomarkers for quantitative features of healthy and diseased cognition. These probes span a range of important cognitive functions, but one new use is in the domain of reciprocating social exchange with other humans - a capacity perturbed in a number of psychopathologies. We summarize the use of a reciprocating exchange game to elicit neural and behavioral signatures for subjects diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Furthermore, we outline early efforts to capture features of social exchange in computational models and use these to identify quantitative behavioral differences between subjects with ASD and matched controls. Lastly, we summarize a number of subsequent studies inspired by the modeling results, which suggest new neural and behavioral signatures that could be used to characterize subtle deficits in information processing during interactions with other humans.

Autism spectrum disorder; Social exchange; Reciprocation; Game theory; Computational models; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Biomarker