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New research explains autistic's exceptional visual abilities
Date:4/4/2011

This release is available in French.

Researchers directed by Dr. Laurent Mottron at the University of Montreal's Centre for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders (CETEDUM) have determined that people with autism concentrate more brain resources in the areas associated with visual detection and identification, and conversely, have less activity in the areas used to plan and control thoughts and actions. This might explain their outstanding capacities in visual tasks. The team published their findings in Human Brain Mapping on April 4, 2011.

Aiming to understand why autistic individuals have strong abilities in terms of processing visual information, the researchers collated 15 years of data that covered the ways autistic brain works when interpreting faces, objects and written words. The data came from 26 independent brain imaging studies that looked at a total of 357 autistic and 370 non-autistic individuals. "Through this meta-analysis, we were able to observe that autistics exhibit more activity in the temporal and occipital regions and less activity in frontal cortex than non-autistics. The identified temporal and occipital regions are typically involved in perceiving and recognizing patterns and objects. The reported frontal areas subserve higher cognitive functions such as decision making, cognitive control, planning and execution,'' explained first author Fabienne Samson, who is also affiliated with the CETEDUM.

"This stronger engagement of the visual processing brain areas in autism is consistent with the well documented enhanced visuo-spatial abilities in this population," Samson said. The current findings suggest a general functional reorganization of the brain in favor of perception processes the processes by which information is recorded the brain. This allows autistic individuals to successfully perform, albeit in their o
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Contact: William Raillant-Clark
w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca
514-566-3813
University of Montreal
Source:Eurekalert  

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