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The processing of biological motion patterns in adults with high-functioning autism: A fMRI study

United Kingdom

Recent neuroimaging studies have suggested two major areas of interest in the brain that explains deficits in interpretation in visual motion processing and interpreting actions of others. These include the both Superior Temporal Sulcus (STS) and regions of the pre-motor and parietal cortices. This experiment will investigate the visual motion processing impairment further by studying brain activation using fMRI in conjunction with behavioral tasks which test either biological motion stimuli or geometric stimuli in individuals affected and not affected with autism. These stimuli are displays in which human actions are depicted as points of light which form either images of human motion or objects. It has already been established that autistic populations have difficulty with interpreting biological motion stimuli, as compared to simple geometrical forms. The question of interest is whether this difficulty is due to the perceptual problem of integrating motion information across space and time or the cognitive problem of interpreting the meaning of a correctly perceived motion stimulus. Significance: A variety of data and theories pertinent to the neural basis of ASD suggest that a key component of the dysfunction in understanding biological motion may be controlled by specific brain regions and their connections to each other. By probing the circuitry which connects these brain areas with a complementary series of behavioral and neuroimaging experiments, the most likely cause of these functional deficits can be determined.