Abnormalities in Autism: Shadows vs. Sensory

(Photo by Flickr/Jasmic)

A new study has been published, detailing how shadows can affect an autistic person’s ability to recognize an object.  The new study explains that this is part of sensory abnormalities that autistic people have. It also explains that these abnormalities could be what triggers autism in the first place.

Although autism is considered to mainly affect one’s social abilities, it can affect their senses as well.  Scientists decided to examine shadows because autistic children typically have no issue picking up on small details, but can struggle when trying to look at the bigger picture

In a picture, shadows can contribute greatly to the atmosphere.  They can also take precedence and make other aspects more difficult to make out.

Scientists used two groups to perform the study: one group of 20 high functioning children with autism, and 20 without.  They showed them pictures of familiar objects, such as fruits and utensils.  All pictures either had a shadow, no shadow, or a shadow that was not representative of its object (such as the shadow of an apple looking like the shadow of a banana).  The children were asked to state the name of the object once they realized what it was.

The two groups received similar marks, except when the pictures had shadows.  The group of autistic children had more difficulty identifying the objects when shadows were involved, and did worse than the average time.  Scientists believe that the shadows would throw them off, and they would spend extra time focusing on them.

One of the scientists, Umberto Castiello, had this to say: “We might be prompted to investigate the neural pathways connecting the object recognition systems with those systems devoted to the planning and organization of overt behavior, and how such pathways might be impaired in the autistic population.”

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