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Visual perceptual load reduces auditory detection in typically developing individuals but not in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Tillmann, J; Swettenham, J; (2017) Visual perceptual load reduces auditory detection in typically developing individuals but not in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Neuropsychology , 31 (2) pp. 181-190. 10.1037/neu0000329. Green open access

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Abstract

Objective: Previous studies examining selective attention in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have yielded conflicting results, some suggesting superior focused attention (e.g. on visual search tasks), others demonstrating greater distractibility. This pattern could be accounted for by the proposal (derived by applying the Load theory of attention, e.g. Lavie, 2005) that ASD is characterized by an increased perceptual capacity (Remington, Swettenham, Campbell, & Coleman, 2009). Recent studies in the visual domain support this proposal. Here we hypothesize that ASD involves an enhanced perceptual capacity that also operates across sensory modalities, and test this prediction, for the first time using a signal detection paradigm. Method: 17 neurotypical (NT) and 15 ASD adolescents performed a visual search task under varying levels of visual perceptual load while simultaneously detecting presence/absence of an auditory tone embedded in noise. Results: Detection sensitivity (d’) for the auditory stimulus was similarly high for both groups in the low visual perceptual load condition (e.g. 2 items: p = .391, d = 0.31, 95% CI [-.39, 1.00]). However, at a higher level of visual load, auditory d’ reduced for the NT group but not the ASD group leading to a group difference (p = .002, d = 1.2, 95% CI [.44, 1.96]). As predicted, when visual perceptual load was highest, both groups then showed a similarly low auditory d’ (p = .9, d = 0.05, 95% CI [-.65, .74]). Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that increased perceptual capacity in ASD operates across modalities.

Type: Article
Title: Visual perceptual load reduces auditory detection in typically developing individuals but not in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/neu0000329
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/neu0000329
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 American Psychological Association. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
UCL classification: UCL
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 > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1516135
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