grant

Research Grant

[Cite as http://purl.org/au-research/grants/nhmrc/403942]

Researchers: Prof Murray Maybery (Principal investigator) ,  Dr Elizabeth Pellicano Prof David Badcock Prof Johanna Badcock

Brief description Autism and its milder forms affect approximately 6 per 1,000 children. The biological basis of the disorder is unknown, so considerable research is being invested in identifying cognitive processes that are atypical in children with autism because this may help identify key areas of the brain affected by the disorder. This research has established that children with autism often outperform their typically developing peers on tasks that require detailed analysis of visual information. In contrast, visual tasks that require integrating information often reveal impaired performance in children with autism. Human vision is achieved through two pathways in the brain - a dorsal pathway most responsive to changing (e.g. moving or flickering) stimuli and a ventral pathway most responsive to enduring stimulus features (e.g. colour, pattern). Increasingly complex visual processing is achieved at higher levels in each pathway through integrating information from lower levels. One objective of our work is to identify which levels of processing in each of the dorsal and ventral pathways show atypical functioning (either enhanced or impaired) in autism. We will do this using tasks designed to establish thresholds for different perceptual judgements, such as identifying patterns in a field of dots. Children with autism will be compared to typically developing children and also to children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). This will enable us to establish whether the same profile of strengths and weaknesses in perception and cognition are observed in autism and SLI, or whether they can be distinguished on this basis. The significance of the work is that it will advance considerably the understanding of atypical visual processing in autism and SLI. Also, by identifying perceptual and cognitive differences in children with autism, we may be able to develop tests to identify infants affected by the disorder and commence remediation at an early age.

Funding Amount $AUD 265,502.77

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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