Meta-analytic evidence of differential prefrontal and early sensory cortex activity during non-social sensory perception in autism.


To date, neuroimaging research has had a limited focus on non-social features of autism. As a result, neurobiological explanations for atypical sensory perception in autism are lacking. To address this, we quantitively condensed findings from the non-social autism fMRI literature in line with the current best practices for neuroimaging meta-analyses. Using activation likelihood estimation (ALE), we conducted a series of robust meta-analyses across 83 experiments from 52 fMRI studies investigating differences between autistic (n = 891) and typical (n = 967) participants. We found that typical controls, compared to autistic people, show greater activity in the prefrontal cortex (BA9, BA10) during perception tasks. More refined analyses revealed that, when compared to typical controls, autistic people show greater recruitment of the extrastriate V2 cortex (BA18) during visual processing. Taken together, these findings contribute to our understanding of current theories of autistic perception, and highlight some of the challenges of cognitive neuroscience research in autism.