Motion perception and social cognition in autism: speed selective impairments in socio-conceptual processing?

Ana Maria Abreu , Joana Soares, Scania De Schonen, Francesca Happé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Aim: Research on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has mainly focused on the study of social behavioral deficits (e.g. imitation, eye gaze, play, etc.). These studies have emphasized the high-level impairments that lead to abnormal social interaction in ASD. However, as important as the study of social behavior in ASD, is research on lower-level processes that might contribute to the emergence and development of the atypical social behaviors that characterize this condition. Perceptual differences constitute one such factor. Here, we aim to investigate the possible influence of specific visual motion perception deficits in conceptual processing. Materials and Methods: We compared the performance of children with ASD, with that of children with moderate to severe learning disorders (MLD) or typical development (TD) on a series of computerized tasks. These tasks assessed motion detection in non-social and socially embedded backgrounds or contexts. Results: The results provide evidence for speed-selective impairments in processing socially embedded targets in ASD. Conclusions: Based on these findings, we suggest that low-level perceptual deficits might play an important role in the development of social impairments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Advanced Neuroscience Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Visual motion processing
  • Social cognition
  • Low level perceptual deficits
  • Stimuli processing speed


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