Impairment in shifting attention in autistic and cerebellar patients

Behav Neurosci. 1994 Oct;108(5):848-65. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.108.5.848.


MRI and autopsy evidence of early maldevelopment of cerebellar vermis and hemispheres in autism raise the question of how cerebellar maldevelopment contributes to the cognitive and social deficits characteristic of autism. Compared with normal controls, autistic patients and patients with acquired cerebellar lesions were similarly impaired in a task requiring rapid and accurate shifts of attention between auditory and visual stimuli. Neurophysiologic and behavioral evidence rules out motor dysfunction as the cause of this deficit. These findings are consistent with the proposal that in autism cerebellar maldevelopment may contribute to an inability to execute rapid attention shifts, which in turn undermines social and cognitive development, and also with the proposal that the human cerebellum is involved in the coordination of rapid attention shifts in a fashion analogous to its role in the coordination of movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agenesis of Corpus Callosum
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Astrocytoma / physiopathology
  • Astrocytoma / surgery
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cerebellum / abnormalities*
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Corpus Callosum / pathology
  • Corpus Callosum / physiopathology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Visual Perception / physiology