Atypical cognitive training-induced learning and brain plasticity and their relation to insistence on sameness in children with autism

  1. Jin Liu  Is a corresponding author
  2. Hyesang Chang
  3. Daniel Arthur Abrams
  4. Julia Boram Kang
  5. Chen Lang
  6. Miriam Rosenberg-Lee
  7. Vinod Menon  Is a corresponding author
  1. Stanford University, United States
  2. Santa Clara University, United States
  3. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, United States

Abstract

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often display atypical learning styles, however little is known regarding learning-related brain plasticity and its relation to clinical phenotypic features. Here, we investigate cognitive learning and neural plasticity using functional brain imaging and a novel numerical problem-solving training protocol. Children with ASD showed comparable learning relative to typically developing children but were less likely to shift from rule-based to memory-based strategy. While learning gains in typically developing children were associated with greater plasticity of neural representations in the medial temporal lobe and intraparietal sulcus, learning in children with ASD was associated with more stable neural representations. Crucially, the relation between learning and plasticity of neural representations was moderated by insistence on sameness, a core phenotypic feature of ASD. Our study uncovers atypical cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying learning in children with ASD, and informs pedagogical strategies for nurturing cognitive abilities in childhood autism.

Data availability

The training sets have been provided in Supplementary Materials. All data that support the findings of this study will be available through the NIHM Data Archive (NDA)

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jin Liu

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
    For correspondence
    jinliu5@stanford.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4343-2623
  2. Hyesang Chang

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-2231-1112
  3. Daniel Arthur Abrams

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1255-1200
  4. Julia Boram Kang

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Chen Lang

    Department of Psychology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Miriam Rosenberg-Lee

    Department of Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Vinod Menon

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, United States
    For correspondence
    menon@stanford.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

National Institutes of Health (HD059205)

  • Vinod Menon

National Institutes of Health (MH084164)

  • Vinod Menon

National Institutes of Health (HD094623)

  • Vinod Menon

Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute

  • Jin Liu

Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute

  • Hyesang Chang

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: The informed written consent was obtained from the legal guardian of each child and all study protocols were approved by the Stanford University Review Board (IRB-11849). All participants were volunteers and were treated in accordance with the American Psychological Association 'Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct'.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Jason P Lerch, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Version history

  1. Received: January 8, 2023
  2. Preprint posted: January 26, 2023 (view preprint)
  3. Accepted: August 2, 2023
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: August 3, 2023 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: October 4, 2023 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2023, Liu et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Jin Liu
  2. Hyesang Chang
  3. Daniel Arthur Abrams
  4. Julia Boram Kang
  5. Chen Lang
  6. Miriam Rosenberg-Lee
  7. Vinod Menon
(2023)
Atypical cognitive training-induced learning and brain plasticity and their relation to insistence on sameness in children with autism
eLife 12:e86035.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.86035

Share this article

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.86035

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