The perceptual saliency of distracting non-target information presents a major challenge for attention selection processes, which are required to bias selection away from distracting, non-target items. Consequently, when atypicality in these processes is present it can have an overarching effect on human behaviour. Independent lines of evidence in autism and schizophrenia spectrum disorder (ASD and SSD, respectively) and the broader spectrum of their traits in neurotypical participants suggest that both of these conditions are associated with attentional atypicalities (sometimes from as early as the first year of life). Our previous research (e.g., Abu-akel et al., 2018) provided support for the notion the effects of autism and psychosis on the attention system are diametrical, which each condition driving the system to the opposite direction of the static/dynamic attention control continuum.
These attention tendencies not only fit with the pattern of behaviour we documented previously in the attention tasks but may also be associated with symptoms in the syndromes. This possible modulation of the attention system may be linked to previously observed neuronal signatures of ASD and Schizophrenia, respectively. For instance, studies have identified the DMN (and the Prrecuneus specifically) as a network which is hyper-activated in schizophrenia (does not show task-deactivation) but hypo-activated and under-connected in ASD (show reduced within network connectivity during resting state). Similarly, the TPJ (which is strongly associated with attention shifting and reactive control) has also been argued to show more volatile activation in schizophrenia, compared to ASD.
The proposed research will apply converging operations including, individual differences, brain stimulation and fMRI recordings as well as their combination in the same study (e.g., Mevorach et al., 2010) to provide a functional brain mechanistic framework for understanding attention atypicalitites in ASD and SSD. This work may also pave the way for future intervention targets in the syndromes both from a behaviour and neuroscience perspectives.