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Autism and perception

Enhanced Perceptual Functioning in autism: An update, and eight principles of autistic perception


By Laurent Mottron 1-2 
Michelle Dawson 1 
Isabelle Soulières1-3
Benedicte Hubert 4-1
Jake Burack 1-5

1 Pervasive developmental disorders specialized clinic, Rivière-des-Prairies hospital, & Fernand Seguin research center, University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada
3 Départment of Psychology, University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada
4 Université de Provence-Côte d’Azur, Marseille, France
5 Educational Psychology Department, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

Send correspondence to: Laurent Mottron, Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, 7070 Boulevard Perras, Montréal, QC, H1E 1A4, Canada. E-mail: mottronl@istar.ca. Telephone: (514) 323-7260, ext. 2143; Fax: (514) 328-3530.

We propose an “Enhanced Perceptual Functioning” model encompassing the main differences between autistic and non- autistic social and non-social perceptual processing: locally- oriented visual and auditory perception, enhanced low-level discrimination, use of a more posterior network in “complex” visual tasks, enhanced perception of first order static stimuli, diminished perception of complex movement, autonomy of low-level information processing toward higher-order operations, and differential relation between perception and general intelligence. An increased perceptual expertise may also be implicated in the choice of special ability in savant autistics, and in the variability of apparent presentations within PDD (autism with and without typical speech, Asperger syndrome) in non-savant autistic individuals. The overfunctioning of brain regions typically involved in primary perceptual functions is a candidate to explain the autistic perceptual endophenotype.


Professor Laurent Mottron, et al.
University of Montreal, Canada

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Professor Laurent Mottron,  et al.