Diminished social reward anticipation in the broad autism phenotype as revealed by event-related brain potentials

Anthony Cox, Gregor Kohls, Adam J. Naples, Cora E. Mukerji, Marika C. Coffman, Helena J. V. Rutherford, Linda C. Mayes, James C. McPartland
Diminished responsivity to reward incentives is a key contributor to the social-communication problems seen in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Social motivation theories suggest that individuals with ASD do not experience social interactions as rewarding, leading to negative consequences for the development of brain circuitry subserving social information. In this study, we examined neural responses to social and non-social reward anticipation in 35 typically developing young adults,
more » ... modulation of reward sensitivity by level of autistic traits. Using an Event-related potential incentivedelay task incorporating novel, more ecologically valid forms of reward, higher expression of autistic traits was associated with an attenuated P3 response to the anticipation of social (simulated real-time video feedback from an observer), but not non-social (candy), rewards. Exploratory analyses revealed that this was unrelated to mentalizing ability. The P3 component reflects motivated attention to reward signals, suggesting attenuated motivation allocation specific to social incentives. The study extends prior findings of atypical reward anticipation in ASD, demonstrating that attenuated social reward responsiveness extends to autistic traits in the range of typical functioning. Results support the development of innovative paradigms for investigating social and non-social reward responsiveness. Insight into vulnerabilities in reward processing is critical for understanding social function in ASD.
doi:10.18154/rwth-2021-06216 fatcat:robp4wr7xbd7fawdc2nklcdtzu