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Autism & Visual Processing

May 4, 2011

Autistic people use their brains differently than non-autistics when processing visual information.



Inside the autistic brain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Autistic people often excel at certain visual tasks, like finding a small figure in a busy background. Now, researchers at the University of Montreal may have found a clue as to why. Laurent Mottron and his colleagues analyzed 26 autism studies that combined brain scans with all sorts of visual challenges. Co-author Fabienne Samson says that during the tasks, the autistic subjects’ visual processing centers were more active than those of non-autistics.

FABIENNE SAMSON (University of Montreal):

…While non-autistics showed more activity in the regions that are associated with more higher functions, like reasoning and planning.


This was true whether the autistic subjects scored better, worse, or the same as non-autistics on the tasks themselves. The results suggest that autistic people use their brains in a different way to tackle visual problems. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.