Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 115, Issue 3, pp 545–552 | Cite as

An fMRI-study of locally oriented perception in autism: altered early visual processing of the block design test

  • S. Bölte
  • D. Hubl
  • T. Dierks
  • M. Holtmann
  • F. Poustka


Autism has been associated with enhanced local processing on visual tasks. Originally, this was based on findings that individuals with autism exhibited peak performance on the block design test (BDT) from the Wechsler Intelligence Scales. In autism, the neurofunctional correlates of local bias on this test have not yet been established, although there is evidence of alterations in the early visual cortex. Functional MRI was used to analyze hemodynamic responses in the striate and extrastriate visual cortex during BDT performance and a color counting control task in subjects with autism compared to healthy controls. In autism, BDT processing was accompanied by low blood oxygenation level-dependent signal changes in the right ventral quadrant of V2. Findings indicate that, in autism, locally oriented processing of the BDT is associated with altered responses of angle and grating-selective neurons, that contribute to shape representation, figure-ground, and gestalt organization. The findings favor a low-level explanation of BDT performance in autism.

Keywords: Pervasive developmental disorders; brain; neurobiology, fMRI; visual processing; weak central coherence; neuropsychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Bölte
    • 1
  • D. Hubl
    • 2
  • T. Dierks
    • 2
  • M. Holtmann
    • 1
  • F. Poustka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryJ. W. Goethe-UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatric NeurophysiologyUniversity Hospital of Clinical PsychiatryBernSwitzerland

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