Developmental changes in brain function underlying inhibitory control in autism spectrum disorders

Aarthi Padmanabhan, Krista Garver, Kirsten O'Hearn, Natalie Nawarawong, Ran Liu, Nancy Minshew, John Sweeney, Beatriz Luna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The development of inhibitory control-the ability to suppress inappropriate actions in order to make goal-directed responses-is often impaired in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In the present study, we examined whether the impairments in inhibitory control evident in ASD reflect-in part-differences in the development of the neural substrates of inhibitory control from adolescence into adulthood. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study on the anti-saccade task, a probe of inhibitory control, in high-functioning adolescents and adults with ASD compared to a matched group of typically developing (TD) individuals. The ASD group did not show the age-related improvements in behavioral performance from adolescence to adulthood evident in the typical group, consistent with previous behavioral work. The fMRI results indicated that much of the circuitry recruited by the ASD group was similar to the TD group. However, the ASD group demonstrated some unique patterns, including: (a) a failure to recruit the frontal eye field during response preparation in adolescence but comparable recruitment in adulthood; (b) greater recruitment of putamen in adolescence and precuneus in adolescence and adulthood than the TD group; and (c) decreased recruitment in the inferior parietal lobule relative to TD groups. Taken together, these results suggest that brain circuitry underlying inhibitory control develops differently from adolescence to adulthood in ASD. Specifically, there may be relative underdevelopment of brain processes underlying inhibitory control in ASD, which may lead to engagement of subcortical compensatory processes. Autism Res 2015, 8: 123-135.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-135
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Antisaccade
  • Autism
  • Development
  • FMRI
  • Inhibitory control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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