Biological motion perception in autism spectrum disorder: a meta-analysis

Mol Autism. 2019 Dec 18;10:49. doi: 10.1186/s13229-019-0299-8. eCollection 2019.


Background: Biological motion, namely the movement of others, conveys information that allows the identification of affective states and intentions. This makes it an important avenue of research in autism spectrum disorder where social functioning is one of the main areas of difficulty. We aimed to create a quantitative summary of previous findings and investigate potential factors, which could explain the variable results found in the literature investigating biological motion perception in autism.

Methods: A search from five electronic databases yielded 52 papers eligible for a quantitative summarisation, including behavioural, eye-tracking, electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.

Results: Using a three-level random effects meta-analytic approach, we found that individuals with autism generally showed decreased performance in perception and interpretation of biological motion. Results additionally suggest decreased performance when higher order information, such as emotion, is required. Moreover, with the increase of age, the difference between autistic and neurotypical individuals decreases, with children showing the largest effect size overall.

Conclusion: We highlight the need for methodological standards and clear distinctions between the age groups and paradigms utilised when trying to interpret differences between the two populations.

Keywords: Age; Autism spectrum disorders; Biological motion; Emotion recognition; Meta-analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Behavior
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Publication Bias
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult