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Understanding Perception and Action in Autism

City: 
Baltimore
State/Province: 
MD
State/Province Full: 
Maryland
Country: 
United States

Research has shown that people with autism have a perceptual bias during sensory processing that results in a focus on details, or “local” features, often at the expense of the whole, or “global” features. That is, they often “cannot see the forest for the trees.” In contrast, typically developing populations are aware of global features in a sensory stimulus, and are able to see the idiomatic “forest.” The effect of this perceptual bias on multiple sensory systems is unknown. Dr. Bastian's fellow will explore local versus global processing of shapes in two sensory systems: vision and touch. The perceptual bias in vision will be compared to the bias in touch using analogous stimuli. Motion perception will also be examined, and the bias in processing dynamic stimuli will be compared to the bias for static stimuli. To understand how these perceptual biases may ultimately affect behavior, the scientists will also analyze how participating subjects draw different shapes. What this means for people with autism: This research will increase understanding of perceptual abnormalities in autism, which may be at the root of some of the symptoms of this disorder. This understanding may also lead to better behavioral treatment strategies.