Friday, January 25, 2008

Vision, Attention & Autism


Brenner, L. A., Turner, K. C., & Muller, R-A. (2007). Eye movement and visual search: Are there elementary abnormalities in autism? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1289-1309.

This article is an all-encompassing literature review on the topic of visual search and the ocular motor system in children with autism. Individual sections of the article describe:
1. The mechanisms involved (both vision and attention) for visual search.
2. Neuro-anatomical description of the vision system with regard to search and attention
3. Neuro-imaging studies of visual-systems on both children with autism and controls.
4. The ocular components of visual search including saccades and smooth pursuits and how they differ in children with autism.
5. The relationship between ocular motor and attention systems.
6. The impact of the ocular motor system on higher functions including face perception, joint attention and language acquisition.

This is not an easy article to read but it provides great insight into many underlying differences between the autistic and typical brain. The authors create a case for the possibility that the symptoms of autism (including joint attention, face perception and language acquisition) are the result of a defective ocular motor system. They warn that the current theory, the "lesion" view of autism in which autism is presumed to be caused by observed neural differences in many brain structures does not take developmental (and experiential) considerations into place. The authors call for research in the combined areas of ocular motor and joint attention to gather additional information in this area.

Another post in this blog will list the differences found in the brains and behaviors of children with autism and typically developing children.

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