Changing perceptions: The power of autism

University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 11/2011; 479(7371):33-5. DOI: 10.1038/479033a
Source: PubMed


Recent data -- and personal experience -- suggest that autism can be an
advantage in some spheres, including science, says Laurent Mottron.

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Available from: Laurent Mottron, Aug 25, 2014
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    • "Social deficits are characterized by difficulty in understanding others' mental status, including the recognition of emotional expressions through voices [1], [2]. Sensory dysfunction includes abnormalities in auditory processing, indicative of hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity to sounds [3], [4]. Aberrant attention typically shifts orientation from social to nonsocial stimuli [5]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are characterized by heterogeneous impairments of social reciprocity and sensory processing. Voices, similar to faces, convey socially relevant information. Whether voice processing is selectively impaired remains undetermined. This study involved recording mismatch negativity (MMN) while presenting emotionally spoken syllables dada and acoustically matched nonvocal sounds to 20 subjects with ASC and 20 healthy matched controls. The people with ASC exhibited no MMN response to emotional syllables and reduced MMN to nonvocal sounds, indicating general impairments of affective voice and acoustic discrimination. Weaker angry MMN amplitudes were associated with more autistic traits. Receiver operator characteristic analysis revealed that angry MMN amplitudes yielded a value of 0.88 (p<.001). The results suggest that people with ASC may process emotional voices in an atypical fashion already at the automatic stage. This processing abnormality can facilitate diagnosing ASC and enable social deficits in people with ASC to be predicted.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e102471. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0102471 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "While most of the 47 research and the public's awareness have been focused on 48 the impairments in ASD, some scientists (e.g. Mottron 49 2011), non-profit companies and many individuals living 50 with autism are actively fighting this one-sided view. This 51 perspective has been featured in the popular press, most 52 recently, for example, in The New York Times (Cook: The 53 Autism advantage, Nov. 29, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are faster or more successful than typically developing control participants at various visual-attentional tasks (for reviews, see Dakin and Frith in Neuron 48:497-507, 2005; Simmons et al. in Vis Res 49:2705-2739, 2009). This "ASD advantage" was first identified in the domain of visual search by Plaisted et al. (J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39:777-783, 1998). Here we survey the findings of visual search studies from the past 15 years that contrasted the performance of individuals with and without ASD. Although there are some minor caveats, the overall consensus is that-across development and a broad range of symptom severity-individuals with ASD reliably outperform controls on visual search. The etiology of the ASD advantage has not been formally specified, but has been commonly attributed to 'enhanced perceptual discrimination', a superior ability to visually discriminate between targets and distractors in such tasks (e.g. O'Riordan in Cognition 77:81-96, 2000). As well, there is considerable evidence for impairments of the attentional network in ASD (for a review, see Keehn et al. in J Child Psychol Psychiatry 37:164-183, 2013). We discuss some recent results from our laboratory that support an attentional, rather than perceptual explanation for the ASD advantage in visual search. We speculate that this new conceptualization may offer a better understanding of some of the behavioral symptoms associated with ASD, such as over-focusing and restricted interests.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 10/2013; DOI:10.1007/s10803-013-1957-x · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    • "We find that rightward lateralisation of brain connectivity in posterior brain regions contributes to visual pattern reasoning in young children with ASD but not in TD children. This result suggests that individuals with ASD, who exhibit well-documented preservation in visual reasoning123426, could use figure perceptual strengths during any visual reasoning task. "
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    ABSTRACT: A subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) performs more proficiently on certain visual tasks than may be predicted by their general cognitive performances. However, in younger children with ASD (aged 5 to 7), preserved ability in these tasks and the neurophysiological correlates of their ability are not well documented. In the present study, we used a custom child-sized magnetoencephalography system and demonstrated that preserved ability in the visual reasoning task was associated with rightward lateralisation of the neurophysiological connectivity between the parietal and temporal regions in children with ASD. In addition, we demonstrated that higher reading/decoding ability was also associated with the same lateralisation in children with ASD. These neurophysiological correlates of visual tasks are considerably different from those that are observed in typically developing children. These findings indicate that children with ASD have inherently different neural pathways that contribute to their relatively preserved ability in visual tasks.
    Scientific Reports 01/2013; 3:1139. DOI:10.1038/srep01139 · 5.58 Impact Factor
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