Pivotal response treatment prompts a functional rewiring of the brain among individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Behavioral interventions for autism have gained prominence in recent years; however, the neural-systems-level targets of these interventions remain poorly understood. We use a novel Bayesian framework to extract network-based differences before and after a 16-week pivotal response treatment (PRT) regimen. Our results suggest that the functional changes induced by PRT localize to the posterior cingulate and are marked by a shift in connectivity from the orbitofrontal cortex to the occipital-temporal cortex. Our results illuminate a potential PRT-induced learning mechanism, whereby the neural circuits involved during social perception shift from sensory and attentional systems to higher-level object and face processing areas.