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Coherent motion processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): an fMRI study.

Neuropsychologia. 2010 May;48(6):1644-51. Epub 2010 Feb 12.

Coherent motion processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): an fMRI study.

Brieber S, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Fink GR, Kamp-Becker I, Remschmidt H, Konrad K.

Child Neuropsychology Section, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital of the RWTH Aachen, D-52074 Aachen, Germany.


A deficit in global motion processing caused by a specific dysfunction of the visual dorsal pathway has been suggested to underlie perceptual abnormalities in subjects with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the neural mechanisms associated with abnormal motion processing in ASD remain poorly understood. We investigated brain responses related to the detection of coherent and random motion in 15 male subjects with ASD and 15 age- and IQ-matched healthy controls (aged 13-19 years) using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Behaviorally, no significant group differences were observed between subjects with ASD and controls. Neurally, subjects with ASD showed increased brain activation in the left primary visual cortex across all conditions compared with controls. A significant interaction effect between group and condition was observed in the right superior parietal cortex resulting from increased neural activity in the coherent compared with the random motion conditions only in the control group. In addition, neural activity in area V5 was not differentially modulated by specific motion conditions in subjects with ASD. Functional connectivity analyses revealed positive correlations between the primary visual cortex and area V5 within both hemispheres, but no significant between-group differences in functional connectivity patterns along the dorsal stream. The data suggest that motion processing in ASD results in deviant activations in both the lower and higher processing stages of the dorsal pathway. This might reflect differences in the perception of visual stimuli in ASD, which possibly result in impaired integration of motion signals.