Atypical category processing and hemispheric asymmetries in high-functioning children with autism

Revealed through high-density EEG mapping

Ian C. Fiebelkorn, John J. Foxe, Mark E. McCourt, Kristina N. Dumas, Sophie Molholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Behavioral evidence for an impaired ability to group objects based on similar physical or semantic properties in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been mixed. Here, we recorded brain activity from high-functioning children with ASD as they completed a visual-target detection task. We then assessed the extent to which object-based selective attention automatically generalized from targets to non-target exemplars from the same well-known object class (e.g., dogs). Our results provide clear electrophysiological evidence that children with ASD (N = 17, aged 8-13 years) process the similarity between targets (e.g., a specific dog) and same-category non-targets (SCNT) (e.g., another dog) to a lesser extent than do their typically developing (TD) peers (N = 21). A closer examination of the data revealed striking hemispheric asymmetries that were specific to the ASD group. These findings align with mounting evidence in the autism literature of anatomic underconnectivity between the cerebral hemispheres. Years of research in individuals with TD have demonstrated that the left hemisphere (LH) is specialized toward processing local (or featural) stimulus properties and the right hemisphere (RH) toward processing global (or configural) stimulus properties. We therefore propose a model where a lack of communication between the hemispheres in ASD, combined with typical hemispheric specialization, is a root cause for impaired categorization and the oft-observed bias to process local over global stimulus properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1259-1267
Number of pages9
JournalCortex
Volume49
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013

Fingerprint

Autistic Disorder
Electroencephalography
Dogs
Cerebral Dominance
Aptitude
Ownership
Cerebrum
Semantics
Communication
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Hemispheric Asymmetry
Autism
Electroencephalogram
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Brain
Research
Stimulus
Dog

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Category processing
  • Electroencephalography
  • Hemispheric asymmetries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Atypical category processing and hemispheric asymmetries in high-functioning children with autism : Revealed through high-density EEG mapping. / Fiebelkorn, Ian C.; Foxe, John J.; McCourt, Mark E.; Dumas, Kristina N.; Molholm, Sophie.

In: Cortex, Vol. 49, No. 5, 05.2013, p. 1259-1267.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fiebelkorn, Ian C. ; Foxe, John J. ; McCourt, Mark E. ; Dumas, Kristina N. ; Molholm, Sophie. / Atypical category processing and hemispheric asymmetries in high-functioning children with autism : Revealed through high-density EEG mapping. In: Cortex. 2013 ; Vol. 49, No. 5. pp. 1259-1267.
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