The local, global, and neural aspects of visuospatial processing in autism spectrum disorders

Rajesh K. Kana, Yanni Liu, Diane L. Williams, Timothy A. Keller, Sarah E. Schipul, Nancy J. Minshew, Marcel Adam Just

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Behavioral studies have documented a relative advantage in some aspects of visuospatial cognition in autism although it is not consistently found in higher functioning individuals with autism. The purpose of this functional neuroimaging study was to examine the neural activity in high functioning individuals with autism while they performed a block design task that systematically varied with regard to whether a global pattern was present. Participants were 14 adults with high-functioning autism and 14 age and IQ matched typical controls. The task was to identify a missing block in target figures which had either an obvious global shape or was an arbitrary array of blocks. Behavioral results showed intact, but not superior, performance in our participants with autism. A key group difference was that the participants with autism showed reliably greater activation in occipital and parietal regions in both tasks suggesting an increased reliance of the autism group on posterior brain areas to mediate visuospatial tasks. Thus, increased reliance on relatively posterior brain regions in itself may not guarantee superior performance as seen in the present study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2995-3003
Number of pages9
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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