Publication details [#329]

Colich, Natalie L., Audrey-Ting Wang, Jeffrey D. Rudie, Leanna M. Hernandez and Susan Y. Bookheimer. 2012. Atypical neural processing of ironic and sincere remarks in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Metaphor and Symbol 27 (1) : 70–92. 23 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
London: Psychology Press


This article reports results from a study on whether or not individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) process sincere versus ironic language differently from typically developing individuals. The goal of the research was to expand on previous work and to examine directly the neural underpinnings of the comprehension of irony. Participants in the study were 32 children and adolescents – 16 with ASD and 16 without. The experiments involved the (visual and auditive) presentation of cartoon scenarios with a neutral setup but with a sincere or an ironic ending. Sincere endings were uttered in a positive tone of voice, whereas ironic endings were uttered in a negative tone of voice. Eighteen different cartoons, lasting 15 seconds each, were presented during a fMRI scan. Both groups showed longer response times for ironic remarks. In both groups, an extended cortical network involving both hemispheres was activated for both sincere and ironic endings. Both groups also showed increased neural activity when processing ironic language, but whereas this increased activity was mostly found in the left hemisphere for the control group, neural activity increased in both hemispheres in participants with ASD including both language and “theory of mind” areas, suggesting that not only language areas but also social cognition areas might be used by individuals with ASD in the comprehension and interpretation of nonliteral language.