Stronger neural modulation by visual motion intensity in autism spectrum disorders

Ina Peiker, Till R. Schneider, Elizabeth Milne, Daniel Schöttle, Kai Vogeley, Alexander Münchau, Odette Schunke, Markus Siegel, Andreas K. Engel, Nicole David

7 Citations (Scopus)


Theories of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have focused on altered perceptual integration of sensory features as a possible core deficit. Yet, there is little understanding of the neuronal processing of elementary sensory features in ASD. For typically developed individuals, we previously established a direct link between frequency-specific neural activity and the intensity of a specific sensory feature: Gamma-band activity in the visual cortex increased approximately linearly with the strength of visual motion. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), we investigated whether in individuals with ASD neural activity reflect the coherence, and thus intensity, of visual motion in a similar fashion. Thirteen adult participants with ASD and 14 control participants performed a motion direction discrimination task with increasing levels of motion coherence. A polynomial regression analysis revealed that gamma-band power increased significantly stronger with motion coherence in ASD compared to controls, suggesting excessive visual activation with increasing stimulus intensity originating from motion-responsive visual areas V3, V6 and hMT/V5. Enhanced neural responses with increasing stimulus intensity suggest an enhanced response gain in ASD. Response gain is controlled by excitatory-inhibitory interactions, which also drive high-frequency oscillations in the gamma-band. Thus, our data suggest that a disturbed excitatoryinhibitory balance underlies enhanced neural responses to coherent motion in ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0132531
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 06.07.2015


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