Attention & Perception in Autism
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed on the basis of a triad of behavioural impairments: impaired social interaction, impaired communication and restricted and repetitive interests and activities. Although the above impairments are highly identifiable, numerous studies have demonstrated that autism is heterogeneous in its presentation. In order to better understand Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is critical to elucidate the way the syndrome impacts on the interaction between attention and perception mechanism. There are mounting reports that autistic individuals often concentrate on the ‘parts’ of stimuli and find it difficult to see the ‘whole’. On the other hand individuals with ASD can be good at tasks such as estimation, where seeing the whole is useful. How can we reconcile these different reports?
In the present project we will use newly evolving procedures to help us understand perception and attention in people with high autistic traits. We will test whether such individuals are necessarily constrained to attend to local parts, or whether autistic traits are linked to an increased response to the ‘salience’ of stimuli – a point previously noted in the responses of ASD individuals in face and pitch perception. If individuals are ‘overwhelmed’ by the salience of what they see, then they may focus attention on local parts as a fall-back strategy or alternatively over-rely on suppression mechanism (e.g., proactive suppression). This will be evaluated here. The project will involve behavioural as well as neuroimaging (fMRI) testing while attempting to link autistic traits to both behaviour and neural mechanisms.
Self-funded students may wish to apply.
There are a number of currently open competitive studentship schemes at the University of Birmingham, and students are welcome to discuss their eligibility for these with the supervisor or the PG Admissions Tutor.
How good is research at University of Birmingham in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.80
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