Abstract # 79:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 2012 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 9 (Gardenia) Poster Presentation


JOINT ATTENTION ABILITIES PREDICT CORTICAL CONNECTIVITY IN THE POSTERIOR SUPERIOR TEMPORAL GYRUS IN CHIMPANZEES (PAN TROGLODYTES)

J. M. McIntyre1, J. A. Schaeffer1, L. A. Reamer2, S. J. Schapiro2 and W. D. Hopkins1,3
1Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience, Atlanta, Ga 30322, USA, 2Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 3Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University
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     Joint attention (JA) in humans is considered an essential aspect of social and cognitive development as well as language acquisition. Furthermore, individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often exhibit deficits in joint attention. The current study measured individual difference in JA using a task commonly used with typically developing and ASD children. In addition to this assessment, we measured the white to grey matter ratios in the posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG) from magnetic resonance images in these same individuals. Some have suggested that individuals with ASD have poorer cortical connectivity than controls. In chimpanzees the pSTG is homologous to Wernicke’s area in humans, a region known for its involvement in speech comprehension but also implicated in joint attention abilities. Based on their behavioral performance, chimpanzees were classified as excellent (n = 33), average (n =28) or poor (n = 26) in their JA abilities. We then compared white to grey matter ratios between these three groups. Chimpanzees in the excellent group had significantly higher ratios in white to grey matter compared to the individuals in the average and poor groups F(2, 74)=3.716, p < .03. No significant differences were found between the individuals in the average and poor groups. These data suggest that poor JA skills are linked to less cortical connectivity, not just in humans, but also in chimpanzees.