Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 58–67 | Cite as

Neural Basis of Visual Attentional Orienting in Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Eric R. Murphy
  • Megan Norr
  • John F. Strang
  • Lauren Kenworthy
  • William D. Gaillard
  • Chandan J. Vaidya
Original Paper


We examined spontaneous attention orienting to visual salience in stimuli without social significance using a modified Dot-Probe task during functional magnetic resonance imaging in high-functioning preadolescent children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and age- and IQ-matched control children. While the magnitude of attentional bias (faster response to probes in the location of solid color patch) to visually salient stimuli was similar in the groups, activation differences in frontal and temporoparietal regions suggested hyper-sensitivity to visual salience or to sameness in ASD children. Further, activation in a subset of those regions was associated with symptoms of restricted and repetitive behavior. Thus, atypicalities in response to visual properties of stimuli may drive attentional orienting problems associated with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Attention orienting Visual salience fMRI Restricted and repetitive behavior 


Author Contributions

EM, LK, and CV designed the study and wrote the manuscript. EM and MN collected data. LK and JS clinically characterized children with ASD. WG designed the study and recruited participants. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Funding for this study came from the National Institutes of Mental Health MH084961, and from Children’s National Medical Center Grant HD040677-07.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Eric R. Murphy, Megan Norr, John F. Strang, Lauren Kenworthy, William D. Gaillard, Chandan J. Vaidya declares that they has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2016_2928_MOESM1_ESM.docx (623 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 622 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric R. Murphy
    • 1
  • Megan Norr
    • 2
  • John F. Strang
    • 3
  • Lauren Kenworthy
    • 3
  • William D. Gaillard
    • 3
  • Chandan J. Vaidya
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWashington University in St. LouisSt LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, BerkleyBerkleyUSA
  3. 3.Children’s Research InstituteChildren’s National Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, 306 White-Gravenor HallGeorgetown UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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