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Adults with autism overestimate the volatility of the sensory environment

Lawson, RP; Mathys, C; Rees, G; (2017) Adults with autism overestimate the volatility of the sensory environment. Nature Neuroscience , 20 (9) pp. 1293-1299. 10.1038/nn.4615. Green open access

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Abstract

Insistence on sameness and intolerance of change are among the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but little research has addressed how people with ASD represent and respond to environmental change. Here, behavioral and pupillometric measurements indicated that adults with ASD are less surprised than neurotypical adults when their expectations are violated, and decreased surprise is predictive of greater symptom severity. A hierarchical Bayesian model of learning suggested that in ASD, a tendency to overlearn about volatility in the face of environmental change drives a corresponding reduction in learning about probabilistically aberrant events, thus putatively rendering these events less surprising. Participant-specific modeled estimates of surprise about environmental conditions were linked to pupil size in the ASD group, thus suggesting heightened noradrenergic responsivity in line with compromised neural gain. This study offers insights into the behavioral, algorithmic and physiological mechanisms underlying responses to environmental volatility in ASD.

Type: Article
Title: Adults with autism overestimate the volatility of the sensory environment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/nn.4615
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.4615
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, Spectrum Quotient AQ, Locus-Coeruleus, Prediction Errors, Clinical-Practice, Auditory-Cortex, Pupil-Dilation, Visual-Cortex, Disorders, Norepinephrine, Suppression
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1570114
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