Neural correlates of coherent and biological motion perception in autism

Authors

  • Kami Koldewyn,

    1. . Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute, University of California-Davis, USA
    2. . Center for Mind and Brain, University of California-Davis, USA
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  • David Whitney,

    1. . Department of Psychology, University of California-Davis, USA
    2. . Center for Mind and Brain, University of California-Davis, USA
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  • Susan M. Rivera

    1. . Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute, University of California-Davis, USA
    2. . Department of Psychology, University of California-Davis, USA
    3. . Center for Mind and Brain, University of California-Davis, USA
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Kami Koldewyn, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, 43 Vassar Street, Room 46-4141, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA; e-mail: amik@MIT.edu

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests those with autism may be generally impaired in visual motion perception. To examine this, we investigated both coherent and biological motion processing in adolescents with autism employing both psychophysical and fMRI methods. Those with autism performed as well as matched controls during coherent motion perception but had significantly higher thresholds for biological motion perception. The autism group showed reduced posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus (pSTS), parietal and frontal activity during a biological motion task while showing similar levels of activity in MT+/V5 during both coherent and biological motion trials. Activity in MT+/V5 was predictive of individual coherent motion thresholds in both groups. Activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and pSTS was predictive of biological motion thresholds in control participants but not in those with autism. Notably, however, activity in DLPFC was negatively related to autism symptom severity. These results suggest that impairments in higher-order social or attentional networks may underlie visual motion deficits observed in autism.

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