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Title: Biological motion perception in autism
Author: Cusack, James Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 2232
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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Autism is a disorder characterised by impairments in social behaviour. Central to infant social development is the ability to follow the actions of others (facilitating joint attention, which is impaired in autism). Additionally, prominent neurodevelopmental theories of autism render it plausible that action perception may be impaired in autism. Previous studies have aimed to further understand action perception in autism by using biological motion stimuli (point light animations of human action). The aim of this thesis is to build upon previous research by quantitatively examining whether: i) there is an autistic deficit for perceiving biological motion and ii) whether the perceptual processes used to detect biological motion are different in the case of autism In Chapter 1 a rationale is provided for studying biological motion perception in autism. Chapter 2 reviews previous studies of biological motion in autism. On the basis of this review, a model is developed, encompassing the range of different perceptual factors which could contribute to human action perception in autism, including: i) spatial configuration, ii) limb perception iii) kinematics iv) inter-agent synchronicity, v) action discrimination and vi) attention. Concise methodological standards are then developed, including the use of: threshold measurement, error measurement, and closely matched control conditions. Chapters 3-8 are individually dedicated to the above-mentioned perceptual factors in the respective order mentioned above. Results demonstrate no differences in perceptual thresholds between autistic and typically developing groups. Crucially, differences are found between sensitivity to upright and inverted biological motion in both groups (chapters 3, 5, 6 and 7), demonstrating the specificity, validity and reliability of our perceptual measurements. The results of our study demonstrate that - in visual psychophysical tasks - participants with autism show no differences in sensitivity to biological motion and do not recruit alternative perceptual processes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: MRC ; Royal Society ; Institute of Medical Sciences
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Autism