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Visual Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Masters and Dissertation Projects: Kim Schauder, M.A.

Mentor: Loisa Bennetto, Ph.D. 

Co-Mentor: Duje Tadin, PhD

Collaborators: Woon Ju Park, M.S.

How do children and adolescents see different things in the world around them? There is so much visual information in the world and our brains work to efficiently process what is most important. Our brains are tuned to process different types of images with varying levels of precision, which helps us see what is necessary and filter out what is not. Previous research suggests that children with autism may have difficulty processing faces, but that they may show a strength in processing other types of visual information.

In this study, we are investigating how different images are processed and what features of the images are important for optimal perception. This will help us understand what is visually most important, and what might be different in autism.

We use computer game-like tasks, with different types of images (like the ones seen below) and are interested in how children’s visual judgments of these images are different depending upon what the image looks like. We also investigate individuals' viewing patterns of these images by using eye tracking technology. This research will provide clues into how different people respond to different images. It will also help us understand how the way we see the world is related to some of the social communication challenges in children with autism.

Presentations and Publications

This study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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