Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autism: Exceptional visual abilities explained

Date:
April 5, 2011
Source:
University of Montreal
Summary:
Researchers have determined that people with autism concentrate more brain resources in the areas associated with visual detection and identification, and conversely, have less activity in the areas used to plan and control thoughts and actions. This might explain their outstanding capacities in visual tasks.

This is the spatial distribution of regions showing more task-related activity in autistics than non-autistics for the three processing domains: "faces" in red, "objects" in green, and "words" in blue.
Credit: Credit: Human Brain Mapping, Wiley-Blackwell Inc.

Researchers directed by Dr. Laurent Mottron at the University of Montreal's Centre for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders (CETEDUM) have determined that people with autism concentrate more brain resources in the areas associated with visual detection and identification, and conversely, have less activity in the areas used to plan and control thoughts and actions. This might explain their outstanding capacities in visual tasks.

Related Articles


The team published their findings in Human Brain Mapping on April 4, 2011.

Aiming to understand why autistic individuals have strong abilities in terms of processing visual information, the researchers collated 15 years of data that covered the ways autistic brain works when interpreting faces, objects and written words. The data came from 26 independent brain imaging studies that looked at a total of 357 autistic and 370 non-autistic individuals. "Through this meta-analysis, we were able to observe that autistics exhibit more activity in the temporal and occipital regions and less activity in frontal cortex than non-autistics. The identified temporal and occipital regions are typically involved in perceiving and recognizing patterns and objects. The reported frontal areas subserve higher cognitive functions such as decision making, cognitive control, planning and execution,'' explained first author Fabienne Samson, who is also affiliated with the CETEDUM.

"This stronger engagement of the visual processing brain areas in autism is consistent with the well documented enhanced visuo-spatial abilities in this population," Samson said. The current findings suggest a general functional reorganization of the brain in favor of perception processes -- the processes by which information is recorded the brain. This allows autistic individuals to successfully perform, albeit in their own way, higher-level cognitive tasks that would usually require a strong involvement of frontal areas in typical individuals. These are tasks that require reasoning -- for example, a research participant would be asked if a statement is true or false, or to categorize a range of objects into groups.

"We synthesized the results of neuroimaging studies using visual stimuli from across the world. The results are strong enough to remain true despite the variability between the research designs, samples and tasks, making the perceptual account of autistic cognition currently the most validated model," Mottron said. "The stronger engagement of the visual system, whatever the task, represents the first physiological confirmation that enhanced perceptual processing is a core feature of neural organization in this population. We now have a very strong statement about autism functioning which may be ground for cognitive accounts of autistic perception, learning, memory and reasoning." This finding shows that the autistic brain successfully adapt by reallocating brain areas to visual perception, and offers many new lines of enquiry with regards to developmental brain plasticity and visual expertise in autistics.

Dr. Isabelle Soulières of the CETEDUM and the Neural Systems Group at the Massachusetts General Hospital (NSGMGH) and Dr.Thomas Zeffiro of the NSGMGH, also contributed to the findings. The CETEDUM is based at the University of Montreal affiliated Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital and is part of the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre. It is officially known as Centre d'Excellence en Troubles Envahissants du Développement de l'Université de Montréal. The research was financed in part by grants from Autism Speaks, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Montreal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fabienne Samson, Laurent Mottron, Isabelle Soulières, Thomas A. Zeffiro. Enhanced visual functioning in autism: An ALE meta-analysis. Human Brain Mapping, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/hbm.21307

Cite This Page:

University of Montreal. "Autism: Exceptional visual abilities explained." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404093149.htm>.
University of Montreal. (2011, April 5). Autism: Exceptional visual abilities explained. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404093149.htm
University of Montreal. "Autism: Exceptional visual abilities explained." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404093149.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins