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Extraction and generalisation of category-level information during visual statistical learning in autistic people

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Parsons, owen 


Abstract Background We examined whether information extracted during a visual statistical learning task could be generalised from specific exemplars to semantically similar ones. We then looked at whether performance in autistic people differed to non-autistic people during a visual statistical learning task and specifically examined whether differences in performance between groups occurred when sequential information was presented at a semantic level. We did this by assessing recall performance using a two-alternative forced choice paradigm after presenting participants with a sequence of naturalistic scene images. Methods 125 adult participants (61 participants with an autism diagnosis and 64 non-autistic controls) were presented with a fast serial presentation sequence of images and given a cover task to avoid attention being explicitly drawn to patterns in the underlying sequences. This was followed by a two-alternative forced choice task to assess participants’ implicit recall. Participants were presented with 1 of 3 unique versions of the task, in which the presentation and assessment of statistical regularities was done at either a low feature-based level or a high semantic-based level. Results Participants were able to generalise statistical information from specific exemplars to semantically similar ones. There was an overall significant reduction in visual statistical learning in the autistic group but we were unable to determine whether group differences occurred specifically in conditions where the learning of semantic information was required. Conclusions These results provide evidence that participants are able to extract statistical information that is presented at the level of specific exemplars and generalise it to semantically similar contexts. We also showed a modest but statistically significant reduction in recall performance in the autistic participants relative to the non-autistic participants.



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PLoS One

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
The authors state the following sources of funding: SBC received funding from the Wellcome Trust 214322\Z\18\Z. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright license to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. The results leading to this publication have received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 777394 for the project AIMS-2-TRIALS. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA and AUTISM SPEAKS, Autistica, SFARI. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results. SBC also received funding from the Autism Centre of Excellence, SFARI, the Templeton World Charitable Fund and the MRC. All research at the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Cambridge was supported by the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR203312) and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration East of England. OP received funding from a Medical Research Council PhD Studentship. Any views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the funders, IHU-JU2, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.