University of Oulu

Aija Kotila, Jussi Tohka, Jukka-Pekka Kauppi, Ilaria Gabbatore, Leena Mäkinen, Tuula M. Hurtig, Hanna E. Ebeling, Vesa Korhonen, Vesa J. Kiviniemi & Soile Loukusa (2021) Neural-level associations of non-verbal pragmatic comprehension in young Finnish autistic adults, International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 80:1, DOI: 10.1080/22423982.2021.1909333

Neural-level associations of non-verbal pragmatic comprehension in young Finnish autistic adults

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Author: Kotila, Aija1; Tohka, Jussi2; Kauppi, Jukka-Pekka3;
Organizations: 1Faculty of Humanities, Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2A. I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
3Faculty of Information Technology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
4Department of Psychology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy
5Clinic of Child Psychiatry, Oulu University Hospital and PEDEGO Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychiatry, University of Oulu
7Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital and Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
8Oulu Functional NeuroImaging-lab, Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 5.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-14


This video-based study examines the pragmatic non-verbal comprehension skills and corresponding neural-level findings in young Finnish autistic adults, and controls. Items from the Assessment Battery of Communication (ABaCo) were chosen to evaluate the comprehension of non-verbal communication. Inter-subject correlation (ISC) analysis of the functional magnetic resonance imaging data was used to reveal the synchrony of brain activation across participants during the viewing of pragmatically complex scenes of ABaCo videos. The results showed a significant difference between the ISC maps of the autistic and control groups in tasks involving the comprehension of non-verbal communication, thereby revealing several brain regions where correlation of brain activity was greater within the control group. The results suggest a possible weaker modulation of brain states in response to the pragmatic non-verbal communicative situations in autistic participants. Although there was no difference between the groups in behavioural responses to ABaCo items, there was more variability in the accuracy of the responses in the autistic group. Furthermore, mean answering and reaction times correlated with the severity of autistic traits. The results indicate that even if young autistic adults may have learned to use compensatory resources in their communicative-pragmatic comprehension, pragmatic processing in naturalistic situations still requires additional effort.

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Series: International journal of circumpolar health
ISSN: 1239-9736
ISSN-E: 2242-3982
ISSN-L: 1239-9736
Volume: 80
Issue: 1
Article number: 1909333
DOI: 10.1080/22423982.2021.1909333
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
515 Psychology
616 Other humanities
Funding: This study was supported by the Academy of Finland, the Alma and K. A. Snellman Foundation, Oulu, Finland and the Eudaimonia Institute, University of Oulu.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.