Superior orientation discrimination and increased peak gamma frequency in autism spectrum conditions.

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Dickinson, A. ; Bruyns-Haylett, M. ; Smith, R. ; Jones, M. ; Milne, E. (2016)
  • Publisher: American Psychological Association
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: endocrine system | eye diseases | tissues | hemic and immune systems | animal diseases

While perception is recognized as being atypical in individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC), the underlying mechanisms for such atypicality are unclear. Here we test the hypothesis that individuals with ASC will show enhanced orientation discrimination compared with neurotypical observers. This prediction is based both on anecdotal report of superior discriminatory skills in ASC and also on evidence in the auditory domain that some individuals with ASC have superior pitch discrimination. In order to establish whether atypical perception might be mediated by an imbalance in the ratio of neural excitation and inhibition (E:I ratio), we also measured peak gamma frequency, which provides an indication of neural inhibition levels. Using a rigorous thresholding method, we found that orientation discrimination thresholds for obliquely oriented stimuli were significantly lower in participants with ASC. Using EEG to measure the visually induced gamma band response, we also found that peak gamma frequency was higher in participants with ASC, relative to a well-matched control group. These novel results suggest that neural inhibition may be increased in the occipital cortex of individuals with ASC. Implications for existing theories of an imbalance in the E:I ratio of ASC are discussed.
  • References (2)

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TP, UK. 2. School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AY, UK. 3. Sheffield Adult Autism and Neurodevelopmental Service, Michael Carlisle Centre, 75 Osborne Road, Sheffield, S11 9BF, UK.

    Hurlbert, A., Loveridge, C., Ling, Y., Kourkoulou, A., & Leekam, S. (2011). Color discrimination and preference in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Vision, 11(11), 429- 429.

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