Shared and Disorder-Specific Neurocomputational Mechanisms of Decision-Making in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) often share phenotypes of repetitive behaviors, possibly underpinned by abnormal decision-making. To compare neural correlates underlying decision-making between these disorders, brain activation of boys with ASD (N = 24), OCD (N = 20) and typically developing controls (N = 20) during gambling was compared, and computational modeling compared performance. Patients were unimpaired on number of risky decisions, but modeling showed that both patient groups had lower choice consistency and relied less on reinforcement learning compared to controls. ASD individuals had disorder-specific choice perseverance abnormalities compared to OCD individuals. Neurofunctionally, ASD and OCD boys shared dorsolateral/inferior frontal underactivation compared to controls during decision-making. During outcome anticipation, patients shared underactivation compared to controls in lateral inferior/orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum. During reward receipt, ASD boys had disorder-specific enhanced activation in inferior frontal/insular regions relative to OCD boys and controls. Results showed that ASD and OCD individuals shared decision-making strategies that differed from controls to achieve comparable performance to controls. Patients showed shared abnormalities in lateral-(orbito)fronto-striatal reward circuitry, but ASD boys had disorder-specific lateral inferior frontal/insular overactivation, suggesting that shared and disorder-specific mechanisms underpin decision-making in these disorders. Findings provide evidence for shared neurobiological substrates that could serve as possible future biomarkers.