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Enhanced Perceptual Functioning in Autism: An Update, and Eight Principles of Autistic Perception

We propose an “Enhanced Perceptual Functioning” model encompassing the main differences between autistic and non-autistic social and non-social perceptual processing: locally oriented visual and auditory perception, enhanced low-level discrimination, use of a more posterior network in “complex” visual tasks, enhanced perception of first order static stimuli, diminished perception of complex movement, autonomy of low-level information processing toward higher-order operations, and differential relation between perception and general intelligence. Increased perceptual expertise may be implicated in the choice of special ability in savant autistics, and in the variability of apparent presentations within PDD (autism with and without typical speech, Asperger syndrome) in non-savant autistics. The overfunctioning of brain regions typically involved in primary perceptual functions may explain the autistic perceptual endophenotype.

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Notes

  1. According to the autistic member of our team, M. Dawson, “We do what we can with what’s around.”

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Acknowledgments

In addition to the major intellectual contribution of Michelle Dawson to this issue, the consultation of several autistics has allowed the grounding of this paper in autistic reality. A special thanks to Stephany Bonnot, Emmanuel Dubruille, Olivier Fourrez, Hugo Lamoureux, and François Léveillé. This work was financed by an operating Grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research to LM (STN-63728), a Studentship award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to I. Soulières, and research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Jake Burack. M. J. Caron, L. Grégoire, P. Jelenic, B. Jemel, A. Lahaie, G. Martel, E. Ménard, S. Mineau, & C. Plante, collaborators, students, administrative staff and research assistants of Rivière-des-Prairies neuro-developmental program also contributed to the findings on which this paper is based. Special thanks to Kate Plaisted for her comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

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Mottron, L., Dawson, M., Soulières, I. et al. Enhanced Perceptual Functioning in Autism: An Update, and Eight Principles of Autistic Perception. J Autism Dev Disord 36, 27–43 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-005-0040-7

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Keywords

  • Perception
  • enhanced perceptual functioning
  • autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • expertise
  • savant syndrome
  • local and global processing
  • fMRI