Severely Attenuated Visual Feedback Processing in Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emily J. Knight, Edward G. Freedman, Evan J. Myers, Alaina S. Berruti, Leona A. Oakes, Cody Zhewei Cao, Sophie Molholm, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals on the autism spectrum often exhibit atypicality in their sensory perception, but the neural underpinnings of these perceptual differences remain incompletely understood. One proposed mechanism is an imbalance in higher-order feedback re-entrant inputs to early sensory cortices during sensory perception, leading to increased propensity to focus on local object features over global context. We explored this theory by measuring visual evoked potentials during contour integration as considerable work has revealed that these processes are largely driven by feedback inputs from higher-order ventral visual stream regions. We tested the hypothesis that autistic individuals would have attenuated evoked responses to illusory contours compared with neurotypical controls. Electrophysiology was acquired while 29 autistic and 31 neurotypical children (7-17 years old, inclusive of both males and females) passively viewed a random series of Kanizsa figure stimuli, each consisting of four inducers that were aligned either at random rotational angles or such that contour integration would form an illusory square. Autistic children demonstrated attenuated automatic contour integration over lateral occipital regions relative to neurotypical controls. The data are discussed in terms of the role of predictive feedback processes on perception of global stimulus features and the notion that weakened “priors” may play a role in the visual processing anomalies seen in autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2424-2438
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 29 2023


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • illusory contours
  • object recognition
  • visual evoked potentials
  • visual feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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