Discrimination in Autism Within Different Sensory Modalities

  • Michelle O’RiordanEmail author
  • Filippo Passetti
Original paper


Recent studies have suggested that unusual visual processing in autism might stem from enhanced visual discrimination. Although there are also many anecdotal reports of auditory and tactile processing disturbances in autism these have received comparatively little attention. It is possible that the enhanced discrimination ability in vision in autism might extend to other modalities and further that they may underlie many reports of unusual touch and audition. The present study investigated the performance of children with and without autism on auditory and tactile discrimination tasks and revealed superior auditory but comparable tactile discrimination in autism relative to controls. These results extend previous findings of perceptual discrimination in autism and may be relevant for a neuro-developmental hypothesis of the disorder.


Autism Discrimination Auditory Tactile 



During the period of this work, Michelle O’Riordan was supported by a Dorothy Hodgkin, Royal Society Fellowship and a Research Fellowship from St. John’s College, Cambridge. We are extremely grateful to Professor Brian Moore and his co-workers, particularly Geoff Moore, for providing the stimuli used in Experiment 1 and for useful discussion. We are also grateful to Simon Baron-Cohen and Greg Davis for useful discussion. The authors would also like to thank Kate Sheppard and Anna Shiel for collecting some of the data as part of a final year project, the parents and teachers for allowing us to visit the schools to conduct this research, and to the children for taking part.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Autism Research Centre, Department of Developmental PsychiatryUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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