Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show superior performance in processing fine detail, but often exhibit impaired gestalt face perception. The ventral visual stream from the primary visual cortex (V1) to the fusiform gyrus (V4) plays an important role in form (including faces) and color perception. The aim of this study was to investigate how the ventral stream is functionally altered in ASD. Visual evoked potentials were recorded in high-functioning ASD adults (n = 14) and typically developing (TD) adults (n = 14). We used three types of visual stimuli as follows: isoluminant chromatic (red/green, RG) gratings, high-contrast achromatic (black/white, BW) gratings with high spatial frequency (HSF, 5.3 cycles/degree), and face (neutral, happy, and angry faces) stimuli. Compared with TD controls, ASD adults exhibited longer N1 latency for RG, shorter N1 latency for BW, and shorter P1 latency, but prolonged N170 latency, for face stimuli. Moreover, a greater difference in latency between P1 and N170, or between N1 for BW and N170 (i.e., the prolongation of cortico-cortical conduction time between V1 and V4) was observed in ASD adults. These findings indicate that ASD adults have enhanced fine-form (local HSF) processing, but impaired color processing at V1. In addition, they exhibit impaired gestalt face processing due to deficits in integration of multiple local HSF facial information at V4. Thus, altered ventral stream function may contribute to abnormal social processing in ASD.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)