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Researchers Believe Attention Differences in People With Autism May Be Connected to Brainstem Region

Attention differences in people with autism might be connected to a region of the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, according to new research published in JNeurosci, the journal for the society of neuroscience. Because people with autism show differences in how they regulate their attention, the researchers explored how the locus coeruleus, which is involved in controlling attention, behaves in people with autism. In the study, participants with autism were asked to perform an attention-demanding task while the researchers monitored their pupil dilation, which provides information about activity in the locus coeruleus. Adult participants watched letters flash on a screen, pushing a button if the same letter appeared twice in a row. This task was then repeated with a distraction, such as tones played at different times. While all of the participants performed equally well in the task, those with autism had smaller pupil dilations than the non-autistic participants during the distractions, suggesting dysregulation in the locus coeruleus. According to a report on the study by, the researchers believe this dysregulation may explain some of the characteristic traits of autism, such as stronger responses to external stimuli, and fixated behaviors and interests. Source:


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