Early-Stage Vision and Perceptual Imagery in Autism Spectrum Conditions

Rebeka Maróthi, Katalin Csigó, Szabolcs Kéri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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 via lateral connections in the primary visual cortex (V1) of individuals with ASC who exhibit exceptional visuoconstructional abilities, together with less efficient mental imagery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number337
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019


  • autism
  • early vision
  • lateral masking
  • mental imagery
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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