Décider dans un monde imprévisible et social : les mécanismes en jeu et leurs bases cérébrales dans l'autisme

Abstract : The social world is inherently very uncertain, as the information can change rapidly, unpredictably, and thus it is essential to be able to adapt. People with autism often show a resistance to change and a preference for sameness, associated with decision-making difficulties. They also report that their difficulties are augmented when the decision involves a change in the routine and when a social component is involved. While the decision-making in a social environment has been widely investigated, the influence of the uncertainty of the context (i.e. of a sudden change in the probability of occurrence of an event) and its interaction with the social nature of the environment has never been studied in the context of autism. This thesis aims to better understand how people with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's syndrome (AS) process an unpredictable context. The main question asked here is which of the social or unexpected aspects denote a problem for people with autism in social interactions. We hypothesized that processing of uncertainty is altered in HFA/AS people compared to matched controls, and we wanted to determine what is the influence of a social or a non-social source of information on this alteration. In the first study of this thesis (a behavioural study), we adapted a decision-making task from Behrens et al. (2007, 2008), which implies a stable and an unstable (i.e. uncertain) conditions. The stable or unstable aspect could derive from a social or a non-social cue. The study showed that in our task the difficulties faced by people with HFA/AS in a social environment are more linked to the uncertainty of the context than to its social aspect. HFA/AS participants also showed a global difficulty to integrate contextual cues in decisionmaking. The second study (a functional MRI study) aimed to identify brain regions involved in the uncertainty processing, as well as the effect of the social nature of the environment on this processing. We observed in HFA/AS participants a weaker engagement of the fronto-parietal attentional cerebral network in an unstable context (regardless whether the cue was social or non-social). We also observed in these participants a difficulty to redirect their attention when contextual cues were not relevant. Moreover, in a social environment people with HFA/AS activated less than controls brain areas belonging to the "social brain”. The discussion draws a parallel between these results and the literature, and opens to rehabilitation perspectives for people with autism
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Suzanne Robic. Décider dans un monde imprévisible et social : les mécanismes en jeu et leurs bases cérébrales dans l'autisme. Neurosciences [q-bio.NC]. Université Claude Bernard - Lyon I, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013LYO10326⟩. ⟨tel-01056989⟩

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