Background: Numerous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brain-bases of autism have demonstrated altered cortical responses in subjects with autism, relative to typical subjects, during a variety of tasks. These differences may reflect altered neuronal responses or altered hemodynamic response. This study searches for evidence of hemodynamic response differences by using a simple visual stimulus and elementary motor actions, which should elicit similar neuronal responses in patients and controls. Methods: We acquired fMRI data from two groups of 16 children, a typical group and a group with Simplex Autism, during a simple visuomotor paradigm previously used to assess this question in other cross-group comparisons. A general linear model estimated the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal time course, and repeated-measures analysis of variance tested for potential cross-group differences in the BOLD signal. Results: The hemodynamic response in Simplex Autism is similar to that found in typical children. Although the sample size was small for a secondary analysis, medication appeared to have no effect on the hemodynamic response within the Simplex Autism group. Conclusions: When fMRI studies show BOLD response differences between autistic and typical subjects, these results likely reflect between-group differences in neural activity and not an altered hemodynamic response.
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Medication effects
- Neurovascular coupling