Mechanisms of Visual Motion Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sensory issues are common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but treatments remain insufficient due to limited understanding of psychological and brain mechanisms. The goal of this study is to develop a more mechanistic understanding of sensory issues in ASD. We propose three aims: (1) define visual motion processes in ASD, (2) characterize neural system correlates of visual motion perception in ASD, and (3) clarify the relationship between visual motion processes and sensory symptoms in ASD. Thirty children with ASD (8-12 years) and 30 typically developing (TD) age- and IQ-matched controls will complete lab and functional MRI visual motion perception tasks developed by the candidate. Motion direction accuracy and eye movement latency and accuracy will be examined. We expect that children with ASD will show reduced accuracy identifying and tracking the direction of motion relative to TD, especially during more challenging conditions (e.g. slower motion velocity). We also expect reduced functional activation and connectivity of motion-sensitive cortical area V5 in ASD. We predict that impairments in visual motion processing will be associated with the severity of sensory issues in ASD. By characterizing key sensory and neurophysiological features associated with visual motion processing issues in ASD, these studies will guide treatment development efforts and advance the candidate’s goal of becoming an independent researcher studying sensory physiology in ASD.