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Neural Mechanisms Of Reward Prediction Error In Autism Spectrum Disorder

Maya G. Mosner, R. Edward McLaurin, Jessica L. Kinard, Shabnam Hakimi, Jacob Parelman, Jasmine S. Shah, Joshua Bizzell, Rachel K. Greene, Paul M. Cernasov, Erin Walsh, Merideth A. Addicott, Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, R. McKell Carter, Gabriel S. Dichter

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Few studies have explored neural mechanisms of reward learning in ASD despite evidence of behavioral impairments of predictive abilities in ASD. To investigate the neural correlates of reward prediction errors in ASD, 16 adults with ASD and 14 typically developing controls performed a prediction error task during fMRI scanning. Results revealed greater activation in the ASD group in the left paracingulate gyrus during signed prediction errors and the left insula and right frontal pole during thresholded unsigned prediction errors. Findings support atypical neural processing of reward prediction errors in ASD in frontostriatal regions critical for prediction coding and reward learning. Results provide a neural basis for impairments in reward learning that may contribute to traits common in ASD (e.g., intolerance of unpredictability).