Binocular rivalry in children on the autism spectrum, Autism Res,

When different images are presented to the eyes, the brain is faced with ambiguity, causing perceptual bistability: visual perception continuously alternates between the monocular images, a phenomenon called binocular rivalry. Many models of rivalry suggest that its temporal dynamics depend on mutual inhibition among neurons representing competing images. These models predict that rivalry should be different in autism, which has been proposed to present an atypical ratio of excitation and inhibition [the E/I imbalance hypothesis; Rubenstein & Merzenich, 2003]. In line with this prediction, some recent studies have provided evidence for atypical binocular rivalry dynamics in autistic adults. In this study, we examined if these findings generalize to autistic children. We developed a child-friendly binocular rivalry paradigm, which included two types of stimuli, low- and high-complexity, and compared rivalry dynamics in groups of autistic and age- and intellectual ability-matched typical children. Unexpectedly, the two groups of children presented the same number of perceptual transitions and the same mean phase durations (times perceiving one of the two stimuli). Yet autistic children reported mixed percepts for a shorter proportion of time (a difference which was in the opposite direction to previous adult studies), while elevated autistic symptomatology was associated with shorter mixed perception periods. Rivalry in the two groups was affected similarly by stimulus type, and consistent with previous findings. Our results suggest that rivalry dynamics are differentially affected in adults and developing autistic children and could be accounted for by hierarchical models of binocular rivalry, including both inhibition and top-down influences.

Serial dependencies act directly on perception, J Vis, 14 (17), 6.

There is good evidence that biological perceptual systems exploit the temporal continuity in the world: When asked to reproduce or rate sequentially presented stimuli (varying in almost any dimension), subjects typically err toward the previous stimulus, exhibiting so-called “serial dependence.” At this stage it is unclear whether the serial dependence results from averaging within the perceptual system, or at later stages. Here we demonstrate that strong serial dependencies occur within both perceptual and decision processes, with very little contribution from the response. Using a technique to isolate pure perceptual effects (Fritsche, Mostert, & de Lange, 2017), we show strong serial dependence in orientation judgements, over the range of orientations where theoretical considerations predict the effects to be maximal. In a second experiment we dissociate responses from stimuli to show that serial dependence occurs only between stimuli, not responses. The results show that serial dependence is important for perception, exploiting temporal redundancies to enhance perceptual efficiency.

Ensemble perception of emotions in autistic and typical children and adolescents, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, (24), 51-62.

Ensemble perception, the ability to assess automatically the summary of large amounts of information presented in visual scenes, is available early in typical development. This ability might be compromised in autistic children, who are thought to present limitations in maintaining summary statistics representations for the recent history of sensory input. Here we examined ensemble perception of facial emotional expressions in 35 autistic children, 30 age- and ability-matched typical children and 25 typical adults. Participants received three tasks: a) an ‘ensemble’ emotion discrimination task; b) a baseline (single-face) emotion discrimination task; and c) a facial expression identification task. Children performed worse than adults on all three tasks. Unexpectedly, autistic and typical children were, on average, indistinguishable in their precision and accuracy on all three tasks. Computational modelling suggested that, on average, autistic and typical children used ensemble-encoding strategies to a similar extent; but ensemble perception was related to non-verbal reasoning abilities in autistic but not in typical children. Eye-movement data also showed no group differences in the way children attended to the stimuli. Our combined findings suggest that the abilities of autistic and typical children for ensemble perception of emotions are comparable on average.