Rebeka Maróthi1, Katalin Csigó1 and Szabolcs Kéri1,2,3*
Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are characterized by multifaceted alterations in visual perception and mental imagery. However, the interaction between early-stage visual perception and imagery has not been explored. We recruited 40 individuals with ASC and 20 neurotypical control volunteers to participate in a lateral masking task. Participants detected a luminance-contrast target pattern (Gabor patch) flanked by two collinear masks. The flanking masks inhibit target detection at small target-mask distances and facilitate target detection at intermediate target-mask distances. In the perceptual task, the masks appeared adjacent to the target. In the imagery task, participants imagined the masks immediately after seeing them. Results revealed that individuals with ASC characterized by exceptional visuoconstructional abilities (enhanced Block Design performance; n = 20) showed weaker inhibition at small target-mask distances and stronger facilitation at intermediate target-mask distances relative to the controls. Visual imagery was markedly dampened in ASC regardless of the visuoconstructional abilities. At the behavioral level, these results indicate increased facilitation vialateral connections in the primary visual cortex (V1) of individuals with ASC who exhibit exceptional visuoconstructional abilities, together with less efficient mental imagery.
ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Front. Hum. Neurosci., 01 October 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00337