Difficulties in the social domain and stereotyped behaviours both characterize Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Recently, hypo- and hyper-sensitivity in all sensory modalities have also been considered as diagnostic criteria of ASD (DSM-5).
In this presentation, I will present a set of studies conducted in the context of my PhD, which investigated visual functioning (low-level and social) in individuals with ASD of different group ages using several techniques (EEG, MEG and eye-tracking).
EEG and MEG results show atypical early brain responses – occurring in the first 200ms – to both social and non-social visual stimuli in adults and children with ASD.
Eye-tracking tasks have been conceived to investigate oculomotor functions such as fixation and saccades in children with ASD. Eye-tracking analyses indicate faster ocular movements and shorter fixation time, as well as more frequent microsaccades in children with ASD. These results suggest that impaired exploration and atypical capture of visual input in ASD is present in simple passive tasks.
To what extend atypical visual functioning observed at early processing stages may partly contribute to higher-level and social disturbances in ASD will also be discussed.
Altogether, these results support both perceptual and neural theories of ASD, which will be presented within a large spectrum of theories of autism.