Atypical visual motion-prediction abilities in autism spectrum disorder

A recent theory posits that prediction deficits may underlie the core symptoms in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, empirical evidence for this hypothesis is minimal. Using a visual extrapolation task, we tested motion prediction abilities in children and adolescents with and without ASD. We examined the factors known to be important for motion prediction: the central-tendency response bias and smooth pursuit eye movements. In ASD, response biases followed an atypical trajectory that was dominated by early responses. This differed from controls who exhibited response biases that reflected a gradual accumulation of knowledge about stimulus statistics. Moreover, while better smooth pursuit eye movements for the moving object were linked to more accurate motion prediction in controls, in ASD, better smooth pursuit was counterintuitively linked to a more pronounced early response bias. Together, these results demonstrate atypical visual prediction abilities in ASD and offer insights into possible mechanisms underlying the observed differences.

Keywords: Autism; eye movements; perception; prediction; vision.