“Decoding versus comprehension”: Brain responses underlying reading comprehension in children with autism
Despite intact decoding ability, deficits in reading comprehension are relatively common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, few neuroimaging studies have tested the neural bases of this specific profile of reading deficit in ASD. This fMRI study examined activation and synchronization of the brain’s reading network in children with ASD with specific reading comprehension deficits during a word similarities task. Thirteen typically developing children and 18 children with ASD performed the task in the MRI scanner. No statistically significant group differences in functional activation were observed; however, children with ASD showed decreased functional connectivity between the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and the left inferior occipital gyrus (LIOG). In addition, reading comprehension ability significantly positively predicted functional connectivity between the LIFG and left thalamus (LTHAL) among all subjects. The results of this study provide evidence for altered recruitment of reading-related neural resources in ASD children and suggest specific weaknesses in top-down modulation of semantic processing.