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Jan Freyberg, Caroline E. Robertson, Simon Baron-Cohen; Reduced perceptual exclusivity during object and grating rivalry in autism. Journal of Vision 2015;15(13):11. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.13.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The dynamics of binocular rivalry may be a behavioral footprint of excitatory and inhibitory neural transmission in visual cortex. Given the presence of atypical visual features in Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), and the growing evidence in support of the idea of an imbalance in excitatory/inhibitory neural transmission in animal and genetic models of ASC, we hypothesized that binocular rivalry might prove a simple behavioral marker of such a transmission imbalance in the autistic brain. In support of this hypothesis, we previously reported a slower rate of rivalry in ASC, driven by longer transitional states between dominant percepts. We tested whether atypical dynamics of binocular rivalry in ASC are specific to certain stimulus features. 53 participants (26 with ASC, matched for age, sex, and IQ) participated in a binocular rivalry experiment in which the dynamics of rivalry were measured at two levels of stimulus complexity, low (grayscale gratings) and high (colored objects). Individuals with ASC experienced a slower rate of binocular rivalry, driven by longer transitional states between dominant percepts. These exaggerated transitional states were present at both low and high levels of stimulus complexity (gratings and objects), suggesting that atypical binocular dynamics in autism are robust with respect to stimulus choice. Interactions between stimulus properties and rivalry dynamics in autism indicate that achromatic grating stimuli produce stronger group differences. These results confirm the finding of atypical dynamics of binocular rivalry in ASC. These dynamics were present for stimuli of both low and high levels of visual complexity, suggesting a pervasive imbalance in competitive interactions throughout the visual system of individuals with ASC.
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