Visual consciousness dynamics in adults with and without autism.
Sensory differences between autism and neuro-typical populations are well-documented and have often been explained by either weak-central-coherence or excitation/inhibition-imbalance cortical theories. We tested these theories with perceptual multi-stability paradigms in which dissimilar images presented to each eye generate dynamic cyclopean percepts based on ongoing cortical grouping and suppression processes. We studied perceptual multi-stability with Interocular Grouping (IOG), which requires the simultaneous integration and suppression of image fragments from both eyes, and Conventional Binocular Rivalry (CBR), which only requires global suppression of either eye, in 17 autistic adults and 18 neurotypical participants. We used a Hidden-Markov-Model as tool to analyze the multistable dynamics of these processes. Overall, the dynamics of multi-stable perception were slower (i.e. there were longer durations and fewer transitions among perceptual states) in the autistic group compared to the neurotypical group for both IOG and CBR. The weighted Markovian transition distributions revealed key differences between both groups and paradigms. The results indicate overall lower levels of suppression and decreased levels of grouping in autistic than neurotypical participants, consistent with elements of excitation/inhibition imbalance and weak-central-coherence theories.
Funder: Silmo Research Academy grant 2018
Innovative 593 Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (777394)