Children with autism see simple movement much more quickly than other
children, a small new study finds.
This extreme sensitivity to motion may explain why some people with the
developmental disorder are highly sensitive to noise and bright lights, and it
may be linked to some of the complex social and behavioural problems associated
with autism, the researchers said.
"We think of autism as a social disorder because children with this condition
often struggle with social interactions, but what we sometimes neglect is that
almost everything we know about the world comes from our senses," study co-lead
author Duje Tadin, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the
University of Rochester, in New York, said.
"Abnormalities in how a person sees or hears can have a profound effect on
How the study was done
The study included 20 children with autism and 26 typically developing
children, aged 8 to 17. All were shown video clips of moving black and white
bars in order to assess how quickly they perceived motion. Overall, the children
with autism detected movement twice as fast as the other children. The detection
speed of the worst-performing child with autism was about equal to the average
of the children without autism.
Previous research has shown that people with autism have enhanced visual
abilities with still images, but this is the first study to show that they also
have a heightened perception of motion, the researchers said.
Study co-lead author Jennifer Foss-Feig is a postdoctoral fellow at the Child
Study Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. She said in the news
release: "This dramatically enhanced ability to perceive motion is a hint that
the brains of individuals with autism keep responding more and more as intensity
"Although this could be considered advantageous, in most circumstances if the
neural response doesn't stop at the right level it could lead to sensory
overload," she said.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about