Objectives: To explore functional connectivity through a behavioral dual-task paradigm.
Methods: 19 Participants with ASD and 42 typically developing controls ages 11-54, matched on PPVT, completed a well-studied dual-task paradigm, in which they were asked to tap with their right or left index fingers while simultaneously describing a visually-presented image. Tapping rate was also recorded in a baseline “single-task” condition.
Results: All participants tapped at equivalent rates in the baseline condition (p’s > .3), and rates decreased in the dual-task condition for both groups. However, the ASD group was significantly more slowed when multitasking (2.9 fewer taps in TD group, 4.8 in ASD group, p = .008). There was a group by handedness interaction, with left-handed ASD participants (n = 5) showing a significantly greater decrease than left-handed controls (n = 15).
Conclusions: Findings indicate that all individuals with ASD, and especially left-handed individuals, experienced more, rather than less, interference when multi-tasking. This suggests two possibilities: ASD may not be characterized by a lack of functional connectivity; alternatively, dual task performance reflects higher-order executive processes, in addition to interference between closely-related anatomical regions, in ASD.