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Investigation of lateral inhibition hypothesis in autistic visual system

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Individuals with autism show interesting abilities in visual processing abilities. Spatial information processing is the same or even enhanced compared to typically developing individuals, while ability to take in the whole scene is impaired. This is consistent with other research that suggests that individuals with autism attend more to the parts or elements of a picture rather than combining information from multiple parts of that scene. Based on their past research, Dr. Mottron suggests that an atypical neural system in a specific area of the visual cortex in those affected with autism has the consequence of enhancing some abilities while compromising others. These investigators will study a specific neural network called “lateral inhibition”. Using behavioral assessments, Drs. Mottron and Bertone can study how neurons which connect different parts of the brain with the visual cortex function. In addition, he will investigate the idea that experience-dependent changes in neuronal connections may explain the differing abilities in visual processing. What this means for people with autism: This study will test a novel theory of neural connectivity patterns that affect how people with autism process visual information. The findings will provide information about how the visual cortex develops in people with autism and will provide insight into how abnormalities in visual processing may affect socially-relevant behavior such as perceiving faces.