Vagaries of visual perception in autism

Neuron. 2005 Nov 3;48(3):497-507. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.10.018.


Three classes of perceptual phenomena have repeatedly been associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): superior processing of fine detail (local structure), either inferior processing of overall/global structure or an ability to ignore disruptive global/contextual information, and impaired motion perception. This review evaluates the quality of the evidence bearing on these three phenomena. We argue that while superior local processing has been robustly demonstrated, conclusions about global processing cannot be definitively drawn from the experiments to date, which have generally not precluded observers using more local cues. Perception of moving stimuli is impaired in ASD, but explanations in terms of magnocellular/dorsal deficits do not appear to be sufficient. We suggest that abnormalities in the superior temporal sulcus (STS) may provide a neural basis for the range of motion-processing deficits observed in ASD, including biological motion perception. Such an explanation may also provide a link between perceptual abnormalities and specific deficits in social cognition associated with autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*