For a study, it was determined that in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the concurrent role of the Central Executive, Saliency, and Social Cognition networks in demanding ecological tasks was unknown. The EcoSupermarketX, a unique task-based fMRI virtual-reality paradigm that mimicked a tough daily-life chore that might have provided some challenges to those with ASD, was used to answer this question. There were 29 adolescents, 15 with ASD and 15 with usual neurodevelopment (TD). During neuroimaging and eye-tracking, they ran the EcoSupermarketX (a shopping simulation with 3 goal-oriented sub-tasks comprising “no cue,” “non-social,” and “social” cues). ASD and TD differed only in total time and distance to complete the “social cue” sub-task with matched eye-tracking measures. In people with ASD, neuroimaging indicated that social, executive, and saliency circuits were all hyperactive at the same time. ASD, on the other hand, had lower activation in the parahippocampal gyrus, which was implicated in scene identification. ASD adolescents hyperactivate 3 main networks: executive, saliency, and social cognition when executing a virtual shopping task that matches the performance of controls. The idea of peaks and valleys of neural recruitment in people with ASD supported parahippocampal hypoactivation, which was compatible with facile eidetic scene processing. The hyperactivation/hypoactivation patterns in everyday tasks provided a circuit-level marker of neurological variety in ASD, which could have been used as a target for intervention.


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