Autistic people do not seem to have problems perceiving and distinguishing certain types of action, as has been commonly believed, according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. Instead, differences seem to arise at the level of executive functions where they try to pay attention to the action and interpret it.
James Cusack, an autistic scientist from the University of Aberdeen, led the study, helping design new types of tests because he felt that the typical tests being used to assess perception differences in autistic people had too many possible confounders.
“When we take account of these other factors properly, the results showed only a slight impairment and this was more of a generalised deficit which might instead be attributed to factors such as the ability to pay attention, rather than autism specifically,” he stated in a press release on MedicalXpress. The new tests showed that people with autism are often interpreting some sensory inputs differently.
A co-author on the study suggested that the findings could lead to better approaches to helping people with autism. “Many people with autism are disabled by sensory symptoms,” he said. “It is important to know that the brain’s sensory systems are functioning well in autism. This suggests that we need to focus upon the way that the brain modulates the way that sensory input is experienced.”
Major study led by autistic scientist challenges long-held preconceptions about the condition (MedicalXpress, February 20, 2015)
Cusack, James P., Justin H. G. Williams, and Peter Neri. “Action Perception Is Intact in Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The Journal of Neuroscience 35, no. 5 (February 4, 2015): 1849–57. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4133-13.2015. (Abstract)