Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Disrupted development and imbalanced function in the global neuronal workspace: a positive-feedback mechanism for the emergence of ASD in early infancy

  • Chris Fields
  • James F. Glazebrook
Review Paper


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is increasingly being conceptualized as a spectrum disorder of connectome development. We review evidence suggesting that ASD is characterized by a positive feedback loop that amplifies small functional variations in early-developing sensory-processing pathways into structural and functional imbalances in the global neuronal workspace. Using vision as an example, we discuss how early functional variants in visual processing may be feedback-amplified to produce variant object categories and disrupted top-down expectations, atypically large expectation-to-perception mismatches, problems re-identifying individual people and objects, socially inappropriate, generally aversive emotional responses and disrupted sensory-motor coordination. Viewing ASD in terms of feedback amplification of small functional variants allows a number of recent models of ASD to be integrated with neuroanatomical, neurofunctional and genetic data.


Categorization Connectome Predictive coding Prenatal development Resting-state networks Small-world networks 



We acknowledge, with thanks, comments from Dr. Sander van de Cruys and from two anonymous referees.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the reported research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SonomaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and Computer ScienceEastern Illinois UniversityCharlestonUSA

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