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Jens Christiansen, Anders Petersen, Thomas Habekost, Lennart Pedersen, Claus Bundesen; Basic mechanisms of visual attention are normal in Asperger's syndrome. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):438. doi: 10.1167/11.11.438.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Introduction: Persons with Asperger's syndrome may show behavioral symptoms of atypical attention. Prior research on basic mechanisms of visual attention in Asperger's syndrome has been based on reaction-time tasks. Since reaction-time tasks confound speed of attention with speed and control of motoric functions, accuracy-based measures are also needed. Purpose: Adults with Asperger's syndrome were compared with a control group with respect to a wide range of basic functions of visual attention using measures of both reaction-time and accuracy. The investigated aspects of attention included processing speed, short-term memory capacity, spatial distribution of attention, minimum effective exposure duration, suppression of distractors, and effects of temporal/spatial cueing. Methods: 12 participants with Asperger's syndrome (IQ: M = 107; SD = 8. Age: M = 28; SD = 7.4) were compared with an age-matched control group of 47 psychology students. The two groups were tested with two well documented tests of basic mechanisms of visual attention: the ANT (reaction-time task; Fan et al., 2002) and a whole/partial report paradigm (accuracy task) analyzed by the Theory of Visual Attention (Bundesen & Habekost, 2008). Furthermore, all participants with Asperger's syndrome were tested with standard measures of autism symptom severity: the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R, Lord et al., 1994) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS, Lord et al., 2000). Results & Conclusion: Participants with Asperger's syndrome were similar to the control group on all measures of visual attention. No strong or significant correlations were found between autism severity and any measures of visual attention. The results suggest that basic mechanisms of visual attention are normal in persons with Asperger's syndrome.
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