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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Marko Nardini

Bedford, R., Pellicano, E., Mareschal, D. & Nardini, M. (2016). Flexible integration of visual cues in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research 9(2): 272-281.

Author(s) from Durham


Although children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show atypical sensory processing, evidence for impaired integration of multisensory information has been mixed. In this study, we took a Bayesian model-based approach to assess within-modality integration of congruent and incongruent texture and disparity cues to judge slant in typical and autistic adolescents. Human adults optimally combine multiple sources of sensory information to reduce perceptual variance but in typical development this ability to integrate cues does not develop until late childhood. While adults cannot help but integrate cues, even when they are incongruent, young children's ability to keep cues separate gives them an advantage in discriminating incongruent stimuli. Given that mature cue integration emerges in later childhood, we hypothesized that typical adolescents would show adult-like integration, combining both congruent and incongruent cues. For the ASD group there were three possible predictions (1) “no fusion”: no integration of congruent or incongruent cues, like 6-year-old typical children; (2) “mandatory fusion”: integration of congruent and incongruent cues, like typical adults; (3) “selective fusion”: cues are combined when congruent but not incongruent, consistent with predictions of Enhanced Perceptual Functioning (EPF) theory. As hypothesized, typical adolescents showed significant integration of both congruent and incongruent cues. The ASD group showed results consistent with “selective fusion,” integrating congruent but not incongruent cues. This allowed adolescents with ASD to make perceptual judgments which typical adolescents could not. In line with EPF, results suggest that perception in ASD may be more flexible and less governed by mandatory top-down feedback.

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