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Autistic Adults Have Unreliable Neural Responses

Autistic adults have unreliable neural sensory responses to visual, auditory, and touch stimuli

 

This poor response reliability, the study’s authors conclude, appears to be a fundamental neural characteristic of autism.

“We are not suggesting that unreliable sensoryvisual, auditory, touchresponses cause autism,” cautioned NYU’s David Heeger, a professor in the departments of psychology and neural science and one of the study’s authors. “But, rather, that autism might be a consequence of unreliable activity throughout the brain during development. We’ve measured it in sensory areas of the brain, but we hypothesize that the same kind of unreliability might be what’s limiting the development of social and language abilities in the brain areas that sub-serve those functions.”

“Within the autism research community, most researchers are looking for the location in the brain where autism happens,” said the study’s lead author, Ilan Dinstein, who graduated from NYU’s doctoral program in 2009 and is now a postdoctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Psychology. “We’re taking a different approach and thinking about how a general characteristic of the brain could be different in autism — and how that might lead to behavioral changes.”

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