Associations between autism spectrum quotient and integration of visual stimuli in 9-year-old children: Preliminary evidence of sex differences

Andrew E. SILVA, Jane E. HARDING, Arijit CHAKRABORTY, Wai Tong Darren DAI, Greg D. GAMBLE, Christopher J.D. MCKINLAY, Samson NIVINS, Rajesh SHAH, Benjamin THOMPSON, for the Children with HYpoglycemia and their Later Development (CHYLD) Study Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The dorsal stream vulnerability hypothesis posits that the dorsal stream, responsible for visual motion and visuo-motor processing, may be particularly vulnerable during neurodevelopment. Consistent with this, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been associated with deficits in global motion integration, though deficits in ventral stream tasks, such as form identification, have also been reported. In the current study, we examined whether a similar pattern of results is found in a cohort of 381 children born with neurodevelopmental risk factors and exhibiting a wide spectrum of caregiver-reported autistic traits. Methods: We examined the associations between global motion perception, global form perception, fine motor function, visual-motor integration, and autistic traits (autism spectrum quotient, AQ) using linear regression, accounting for possible interactions with sex and other factors relevant to neurodevelopment. Results: All assessments of dorsal stream function were significantly associated with AQ such that worse performance predicted higher AQ scores. We also observed a significant sex interaction, with worse global form perception associated with higher AQ in boys (n = 202) but not girls (n = 179). Conclusion: We found widespread associations between dorsal stream functions and autistic traits. These associations were observed in a large group of children with a range of AQ scores, demonstrating a range of visual function across the full spectrum of autistic traits. In addition, ventral function was associated with AQ in boys but not girls. Sex differences in the associations between visual processing and neurodevelopment should be considered in the designs of future studies. Copyright © 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Early online dateJun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jun 2023

Citation

Silva, A. E., Harding, J. E., Chakraborty, A., Dai, D. W., Gamble, G. D., McKinlay, C. J. D., Nivins, S., Shah, R., Thompson, B., & for the Children with HYpoglycemia and their Later Development (CHYLD) Study Team. (2023). Associations between autism spectrum quotient and integration of visual stimuli in 9-year-old children: Preliminary evidence of sex differences. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-023-06035-1

Keywords

  • Visual integration
  • Visual-motor integration
  • Autism spectrum quotient
  • Autistic traits
  • Dorsal stream vulnerability
  • Sex differences

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