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1.  Neural correlates of coherent and biological motion perception in autism 
Developmental science  2011;14(5):1075-1088.
Recent evidence suggests those with autism may be generally impaired in visual motion perception. To examine this, we investigated both coherent and biological motion processing in adolescents with autism employing both psychophysical and fMRI methods. Those with autism performed as well as matched controls during coherent motion perception but had significantly higher thresholds for biological motion perception. The autism group showed reduced posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus (pSTS), parietal and frontal activity during a biological motion task while showing similar levels of activity in MT+/V5 during both coherent and biological motion trials. Activity in MT+/V5 was predictive of individual coherent motion thresholds in both groups. Activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and pSTS was predictive of biological motion thresholds in control participants but not in those with autism. Notably, however, activity in DLPFC was negatively related to autism symptom severity. These results suggest that impairments in higher-order social or attentional networks may underlie visual motion deficits observed in autism.
PMCID: PMC3800149  PMID: 21884323
2.  Deficient biological motion perception in schizophrenia: results from a motion noise paradigm 
Background: Schizophrenia patients exhibit deficient processing of perceptual and cognitive information. However, it is not well-understood how basic perceptual deficits contribute to higher level cognitive problems in this mental disorder. Perception of biological motion, a motion-based cognitive recognition task, relies on both basic visual motion processing and social cognitive processing, thus providing a useful paradigm to evaluate the potentially hierarchical relationship between these two levels of information processing.
Methods: In this study, we designed a biological motion paradigm in which basic visual motion signals were manipulated systematically by incorporating different levels of motion noise. We measured the performances of schizophrenia patients (n = 21) and healthy controls (n = 22) in this biological motion perception task, as well as in coherent motion detection, theory of mind, and a widely used biological motion recognition task.
Results: Schizophrenia patients performed the biological motion perception task with significantly lower accuracy than healthy controls when perceptual signals were moderately degraded by noise. A more substantial degradation of perceptual signals, through using additional noise, impaired biological motion perception in both groups. Performance levels on biological motion recognition, coherent motion detection and theory of mind tasks were also reduced in patients.
Conclusion: The results from the motion-noise biological motion paradigm indicate that in the presence of visual motion noise, the processing of biological motion information in schizophrenia is deficient. Combined with the results of poor basic visual motion perception (coherent motion task) and biological motion recognition, the association between basic motion signals and biological motion perception suggests a need to incorporate the improvement of visual motion perception in social cognitive remediation.
PMCID: PMC3701139  PMID: 23847566
biological motion perception; visual motion perception; bottom-up process; social cognition; schizophrenia
3.  Unaffected Perceptual Thresholds for Biological and Non-Biological Form-from-Motion Perception in Autism Spectrum Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13491.
Perception of biological motion is linked to the action perception system in the human brain, abnormalities within which have been suggested to underlie impairments in social domains observed in autism spectrum conditions (ASC). However, the literature on biological motion perception in ASC is heterogeneous and it is unclear whether deficits are specific to biological motion, or might generalize to form-from-motion perception.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We compared psychophysical thresholds for both biological and non-biological form-from-motion perception in adults with ASC and controls. Participants viewed point-light displays depicting a walking person (Biological Motion), a translating rectangle (Structured Object) or a translating unfamiliar shape (Unstructured Object). The figures were embedded in noise dots that moved similarly and the task was to determine direction of movement. The number of noise dots varied on each trial and perceptual thresholds were estimated adaptively. We found no evidence for an impairment in biological or non-biological object motion perception in individuals with ASC. Perceptual thresholds in the three conditions were almost identical between the ASC and control groups.
Discussion and Conclusions
Impairments in biological motion and non-biological form-from-motion perception are not across the board in ASC, and are only found for some stimuli and tasks. We discuss our results in relation to other findings in the literature, the heterogeneity of which likely relates to the different tasks performed. It appears that individuals with ASC are unaffected in perceptual processing of form-from-motion, but may exhibit impairments in higher order judgments such as emotion processing. It is important to identify more specifically which processes of motion perception are impacted in ASC before a link can be made between perceptual deficits and the higher-level features of the disorder.
PMCID: PMC2956672  PMID: 20976151
4.  A Direct Comparison of Local-Global Integration in Autism and other Developmental Disorders: Implications for the Central Coherence Hypothesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39351.
The weak central coherence hypothesis represents one of the current explanatory models in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Several experimental paradigms based on hierarchical figures have been used to test this controversial account. We addressed this hypothesis by testing central coherence in ASD (n = 19 with intellectual disability and n = 20 without intellectual disability), Williams syndrome (WS, n = 18), matched controls with intellectual disability (n = 20) and chronological age-matched controls (n = 20). We predicted that central coherence should be most impaired in ASD for the weak central coherence account to hold true. An alternative account includes dorsal stream dysfunction which dominates in WS. Central coherence was first measured by requiring subjects to perform local/global preference judgments using hierarchical figures under 6 different experimental settings (memory and perception tasks with 3 distinct geometries with and without local/global manipulations). We replicated these experiments under 4 additional conditions (memory/perception*local/global) in which subjects reported the correct local or global configurations. Finally, we used a visuoconstructive task to measure local/global perceptual interference. WS participants were the most impaired in central coherence whereas ASD participants showed a pattern of coherence loss found in other studies only in four task conditions favoring local analysis but it tended to disappear when matching for intellectual disability. We conclude that abnormal central coherence does not provide a comprehensive explanation of ASD deficits and is more prominent in populations, namely WS, characterized by strongly impaired dorsal stream functioning and other phenotypic traits that contrast with the autistic phenotype. Taken together these findings suggest that other mechanisms such as dorsal stream deficits (largest in WS) may underlie impaired central coherence.
PMCID: PMC3378549  PMID: 22724001
5.  Atypical Integration of Motion Signals in Autism Spectrum Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48173.
Vision in Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) is characterized by enhanced perception of local elements, but impaired perception of global percepts. Deficits in coherent motion perception seem to support this characterization, but the roots and robustness of such deficits remain unclear. We aimed to investigate the dynamics of the perceptual decision-making network known to support coherent motion perception. In a series of forced-choice coherent motion perception tests, we parametrically varied a single stimulus dimension, viewing duration, to test whether the rate at which evidence is accumulated towards a global decision is atypical in ASC. 40 adult participants (20 ASC) performed a classic motion discrimination task, manually indicating the global direction of motion in a random-dot kinematogram across a range of coherence levels (2–75%) and stimulus-viewing durations (200–1500 ms). We report a deficit in global motion perception at short viewing durations in ASC. Critically, however, we found that increasing the amount of time over which motion signals could be integrated reduced the magnitude of the deficit, such that at the longest duration there was no difference between the ASC and control groups. Further, the deficit in motion integration at the shortest duration was significantly associated with the severity of autistic symptoms in our clinical population, and was independent from measures of intelligence. These results point to atypical integration of motion signals during the construction of a global percept in ASC. Based on the neural correlates of decision-making in global motion perception our findings suggest the global motion deficit observed in ASC could reflect a slower or more variable response from the primary motion area of the brain or longer accumulation of evidence towards a decision-bound in parietal areas.
PMCID: PMC3502435  PMID: 23185249
6.  Functional and anatomical profile of visual motion impairments in stroke patients correlate with fMRI in normal subjects 
Journal of neuropsychology  2009;4(2):121-145.
We used six psychophysical tasks to measure sensitivity to different types of global motion in 45 healthy adults and in 57 stroke patients who had recovered from the initial results of the stroke, but a large subset of them had enduring deficits on selective visual motion perception tasks. The patients were divided into four groups on the basis of the location of their cortical lesion: occipito-temporal, occipito-parietal, rostro-dorsal parietal, or frontal–prefrontal. The six tasks were: direction discrimination, speed discrimination, motion coherence, motion discontinuity, two-dimensional form-from-motion, and motion coherence – radial. We found both qualitative and quantitative differences among the motion impairments in the four groups: patients with frontal lesions or occipito-temporal lesions were not impaired on any task. The other two groups had substantial impairments, most severe in the group with occipito-parietal damage. We also tested eight healthy control subjects on the same tasks while they were scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging. The BOLD signal provoked by the different tasks correlated well with the locus of the lesions that led to impairments among the different tasks. The results highlight the advantage of using psychophysical/techniques and a variety of visual tasks with neurological patients to tease apart the contribution of different cortical areas to motion processing.
PMCID: PMC2935516  PMID: 19818210
7.  An Inability to Exclude Visual Noise in Migraine 
People with migraine are relatively poor at judging the direction of motion of coherently moving signal dots when interspersed with noise dots drifting in random directions, a task known as motion coherence. Although this has been taken as evidence of impoverished global pooling of motion signals, it could also arise from unreliable coding of local direction (of each dot), or an inability to segment signal from noise (noise-exclusion). The aim of this study was to determine how these putative limits contribute to impoverished motion processing in migraine.
Twenty-two participants with migraine (mean age, 34.7 ± 8.3 years; 16 female) and 22 age- and sex-matched controls (mean age, 34.4 ± 6.2 years) performed a motion-coherence task and a motion-equivalent noise task, the latter quantifying local and global limits on motion processing. In addition, participants were tested on analogous equivalent noise paradigms involving judgments of orientation and size, so that the specificity of any findings (to visual dimension) could be ascertained.
Participants with migraine exhibited higher motion-coherence thresholds than controls (P = 0.01, independent t-test). However, this difference could not be attributed to deficits in either local or global processing since they performed normally on all equivalent noise tasks (P > 0.05, multivariate ANOVA).
These findings indicate that motion perception in the participants with migraine was limited by an inability to exclude visual noise. We suggest that this is a defining characteristic of visual dysfunction in migraine, a theory that has the potential to integrate a wide range of findings in the literature.
Studies have shown that individuals with migraine are characterized by elevated motion-coherence thresholds. Here, using equivalent noise analysis and coherence paradigms, we show that this is due to a relative inability to exclude visual noise rather than impaired local or global processing.
PMCID: PMC3993877  PMID: 24677099
migraine; vision; noise; coherence; motion
8.  Contribution of coherent motion to the perception of biological motion among persons with Schizophrenia 
People with schizophrenia (SCZ) are impaired in several domains of visual processing, including the discrimination and detection of biological motion. However, the mechanisms underlying SCZ-related biological motion processing deficits are unknown. Moreover, whether these impairments are specific to biological motion or represent a more widespread visual motion processing deficit is unclear. In the current study, three experiments were conducted to investigate the contribution of global coherent motion processing to biological motion perception among patients with SCZ. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants with SCZ (n = 33) and healthy controls (n = 33) were asked to discriminate the direction of motion from upright and inverted point-light walkers in the presence and absence of a noise mask. Additionally, participants discriminated the direction of non-biological global coherent motion. In Experiment 3, participants discriminated the direction of motion from upright scrambled walkers (which contained only local motion information) and upright random position walkers (which contained only global form information). Consistent with previous research, results from Experiment 1 and 2 showed that people with SCZ exhibited deficits in the direction discrimination of point-light walkers; however, this impairment was accounted for by decreased performance in the coherent motion control task. Furthermore, results from Experiment 3 demonstrated similar performance in the discrimination of scrambled and random position point-light walkers.
PMCID: PMC3741574  PMID: 23964253
biological motion; schizophrenia; paranoid; motion; global mechanisms; local mechanisms; perception
9.  Decreased Coherent Motion Discrimination in Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Role of Attentional Zoom-Out Deficit 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49019.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been associated with decreased coherent dot motion (CDM) performance, a task that measures magnocellular sensitivity as well as fronto-parietal attentional integration processing. In order to clarify the role of spatial attention in CDM tasks, we measured the perception of coherently moving dots displayed in the central or peripheral visual field in ASD and typically developing children. A dorsal-stream deficit in children with ASD should predict a generally poorer performance in both conditions. In our study, however, we show that in children with ASD, CDM perception was selectively impaired in the central condition. In addition, in the ASD group, CDM efficiency was correlated to the ability to zoom out the attentional focus. Importantly, autism symptoms severity was related to both the CDM and attentional zooming-out impairment. These findings suggest that a dysfunction in the attentional network might help to explain decreased CDM discrimination as well as the “core” social cognition deficits of ASD.
PMCID: PMC3490913  PMID: 23139831
10.  Magno- and Parvocellular Contrast Responses in Varying Degrees of Autistic Trait 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66797.
Autistic tendency has been associated with altered visual perception, especially impaired visual motion sensitivity and global/local integration, as well as enhanced visual search and local shape recognition. However, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these abnormalities remain poorly defined. The current study recruited 29 young adults displaying low, middle or high autistic trait as measured by Baron-Cohen's Autism spectrum Quotient (AQ), and measured motion coherence thresholds psychophysically, with manipulation of dot lifetime and stimulus contrast, as well as nonlinear cortical visual evoked potentials (VEPs) over a range of temporal luminance contrast levels from 10% to 95%. Contrast response functions extracted from the major first order and second order Wiener kernel peaks of the VEPs showed consistent variation with AQ group, and Naka-Rushton fits enabled contrast gain and semi-saturation contrasts to be elicited for each peak. A short latency second order response (previously associated with magnocellular processing) with high contrast gain and a saturating contrast response function showed higher amplitude for the High AQ (compared with Mid and Low groups) indicating poorer neural recovery after rapid stimulation. A non-linearity evoked at longer interaction times (previously associated with parvocellular processing) with no evidence of contrast saturation and lower contrast gain showed no difference between autism quotient groups across the full range of stimulus contrasts. In addition, the short latency first order response and a small, early second order second slice response showed gain and semi-saturation parameters indicative of magnocellular origin, while the longer latency first order response probably reflects a mixture of inputs (including feedback from higher cortical areas). Significant motion coherence (AQ group) * (dot lifetime) interactions with higher coherence threshold for limited dot lifetime stimuli is consistent with atypical magnocellular functioning, however psychophysical performance for those with High AQ is not explained fully, suggesting that other factors may be involved.
PMCID: PMC3688931  PMID: 23824955
11.  Do different ‘magnocellular tasks’ probe the same neural substrate? 
The sensory abnormalities associated with disorders such as dyslexia, autism and schizophrenia have often been attributed to a generalized deficit in the visual magnocellular–dorsal stream and its auditory homologue. To probe magnocellular function, various psychophysical tasks are often employed that require the processing of rapidly changing stimuli. But is performance on these several tasks supported by a common substrate? To answer this question, we tested a cohort of 1060 individuals on four ‘magnocellular tasks’: detection of low-spatial-frequency gratings reversing in contrast at a high temporal frequency (so-called frequency-doubled gratings); detection of pulsed low-spatial-frequency gratings on a steady luminance pedestal; detection of coherent motion; and auditory discrimination of temporal order. Although all tasks showed test–retest reliability, only one pair shared more than 4 per cent of variance. Correlations within the set of ‘magnocellular tasks’ were similar to the correlations between those tasks and a ‘non-magnocellular task’, and there was little consistency between ‘magnocellular deficit’ groups comprising individuals with the lowest sensitivity for each task. Our results suggest that different ‘magnocellular tasks’ reflect different sources of variance, and thus are not general measures of ‘magnocellular function’.
PMCID: PMC3441081  PMID: 22896642
magnocellular; dorsal stream; psychophysics; vision; hearing; individual differences
12.  Psychometrically matched tasks evaluating differential fMRI activation during form and motion processing 
Neuropsychology  2011;25(5):622-633.
Deficits in visual perception and working memory are commonly observed in neuropsychiatric disorders and have been investigated using functional MRI. However, interpretation of differences in brain activation may be confounded with differences in task performance between groups. Differences in task difficulty across conditions may also pose interpretative issues in studies of visual processing in healthy subjects.
In order to address these concerns, the present study characterized brain activation in tasks which were psychometrically matched for difficulty. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to assess brain activation in ten healthy subjects during discrimination and working memory judgments for static and moving stimuli. For all task conditions, performance accuracy was matched at 70.7%.
Areas associated with V2 and V5 in the dorsal stream were activated during motion processing tasks and V4 in the ventral stream were activated during form processing tasks. Frontoparietal areas associated with working memory were also statistically significant during the working memory tasks.
Application of psychophysical methods to equate task demands provides a practical method to equate performance levels across conditions in fMRI studies, and to compare healthy and cognitively impaired groups at comparable levels of effort. These psychometrically matched tasks can be applied to patients with a variety of cognitive disorders to investigate dysfunction of multiple a priori defined brain regions. Measuring the changes in typical activation patterns in patients with these diseases can be useful for monitoring disease progression, evaluating new drug treatments, and possibly for developing methods for early diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3150625  PMID: 21534685
visual processing; fMRI; working memory; form; motion
13.  Dorsal stream involvement in recognition of objects with transient onset but not with ramped onset 
Although the ventral visual stream is understood to be responsible for object recognition, it has been proposed that the dorsal stream may contribute to object recognition by rapidly activating parietal attention mechanisms, prior to ventral stream object processing.
To investigate the relative contribution of the dorsal visual stream to object recognition a group of tertiary students were divided into good and poor motion coherence groups and assessed on tasks classically assumed to rely on ventral stream processing. Participants were required to identify simple line drawings in two tasks, one where objects were presented abruptly for 50 ms followed by a white-noise mask, the other where contrast was linearly ramped on and off over 325 ms and replaced with a mask.
Although both groups only differed in motion coherence performance (a dorsal stream measure), the good motion coherence group showed superior contrast sensitivity for object recognition on the abrupt, but not the ramped presentation tasks.
We propose that abrupt presentation of objects activated attention mechanisms fed by the dorsal stream, whereas the ramped presentation had reduced transience and thus did not activate dorsal attention mechanisms as well. The results suggest that rapid dorsal stream activation may be required to assist with ventral stream object processing.
PMCID: PMC3163526  PMID: 21843368
14.  Task-related functional connectivity in autism spectrum conditions: an EEG study using wavelet transform coherence 
Molecular Autism  2013;4:1.
Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are a set of pervasive neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by a wide range of lifelong signs and symptoms. Recent explanatory models of autism propose abnormal neural connectivity and are supported by studies showing decreased interhemispheric coherence in individuals with ASC. The first aim of this study was to test the hypothesis of reduced interhemispheric coherence in ASC, and secondly to investigate specific effects of task performance on interhemispheric coherence in ASC.
We analyzed electroencephalography (EEG) data from 15 participants with ASC and 15 typical controls, using Wavelet Transform Coherence (WTC) to calculate interhemispheric coherence during face and chair matching tasks, for EEG frequencies from 5 to 40 Hz and during the first 400 ms post-stimulus onset.
Results demonstrate a reduction of interhemispheric coherence in the ASC group, relative to the control group, in both tasks and for all electrode pairs studied. For both tasks, group differences were generally observed after around 150 ms and at frequencies lower than 13 Hz. Regarding within-group task comparisons, while the control group presented differences in interhemispheric coherence between faces and chairs tasks at various electrode pairs (FT7-FT8, TP7-TP8, P7-P8), such differences were only seen for one electrode pair in the ASC group (T7-T8). No significant differences in EEG power spectra were observed between groups.
Interhemispheric coherence is reduced in people with ASC, in a time and frequency specific manner, during visual perception and categorization of both social and inanimate stimuli and this reduction in coherence is widely dispersed across the brain.
Results of within-group task comparisons may reflect an impairment in task differentiation in people with ASC relative to typically developing individuals.
Overall, the results of this research support the value of WTC in examining the time-frequency microstructure of task-related interhemispheric EEG coherence in people with ASC.
PMCID: PMC3558480  PMID: 23311570
Autism spectrum conditions; Interhemispheric coherence; Atypical connectivity; Wavelet transform coherence
15.  Sensitivity of a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) to coherent visual motion in random dot displays 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:688.
Motion vision is one of the fundamental properties of the visual system and is involved in numerous tasks. Previous work has shown that harbor seals are able to perceive visual motion. Tying in with this experimental finding, we assessed the sensitivity of harbor seals to visual motion using random dot displays. In these random dot displays, either all or a percentage of the dots plotted in the display area move into one direction which is referred to as percent coherence. Using random dot displays allows determining motion sensitivity free from form or position cues. Moreover, when reducing the lifetime of the dots, the experimental subjects need to rely on the global motion over the display area instead of on local motion events, such as the streaks of single dots. For marine mammals, the interpretation of global motion stimuli seems important in the context of locomotion, orientation and foraging. The first experiment required the seal to detect coherent motion directed upwards in one out of two stimulus displays and psychophysical motion coherence detection thresholds were obtained ranging from 5% to 35% coherence. At the beginning of the second experiment, which was conducted to reduce the differential flickering of the motion stimulus as secondary cue, the seal was directly able to transfer from coherent motion detection to a discrimination of coherent motion direction, leftward versus rightward. The seal performed well even when the duration of the local motion event was extremely short in the last experiment, in which noise was programmed as random position noise. Its coherence threshold was determined at 23% coherence in this experiment. This motion sensitivity compares well to the performance of most species tested so far excluding monkeys, humans and cats. To conclude, harbor seals possess an effective global motion processing system. For seals, the interpretation of global and coherent motion might e. g. play a role in the interpretation of optic flow information or when breaking the camouflage of cryptic prey items.
PMCID: PMC4258534  PMID: 25520911
Motion coherence; Global motion; Vision; Motion vision; Random dot display; Pinnipeds
16.  Magnocellular contributions to impaired motion processing in schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia research  2005;82(1):1-8.
Patients with schizophrenia show impairments in motion processing, along with deficits in lower level processing primarily involving the magnocellular visual pathway. The present study investigates potential magnocellular contributions to impaired motion processing in schizophrenia using a combined neurophysiological and behavioral approach. As compared to prior motion studies in schizophrenia, thresholds were determined for both incoherent and coherent visual motion. In this study, velocity discrimination thresholds were measured for schizophrenia patients (n = 14) and age-matched normal control subjects (n = 16) using a staircase procedure. Early visual processing was evaluated using steady-state visual evoked potentials (ssVEP), with stimuli biased toward activation of either the magnocellular or parvocellular visual pathways through luminance contrast manipulation. Patients with schizophrenia showed poor velocity discrimination for both incoherent and coherent motion, with no significant group × task interaction. Further, when coherent motion performance was measured at individually determined incoherent motion thresholds, accuracy levels for patients were similar to controls, also indicating similarity of deficit for incoherent vs. coherent motion discrimination. Impairments in velocity discrimination correlated significantly with reduced amplitude of ssVEP elicited by magnocellular – but not parvocellular – selective stimuli. This study demonstrates that deficits in motion processing in schizophrenia are significantly related to reduced activation of the magnocellular visual system. Further, this study supports and extends prior reports of impaired motion processing in schizophrenia, and indicates significant bottom-up contributions to higher-order cognitive impairments.
PMCID: PMC2045640  PMID: 16325377
Schizophrenia; Motion; Magnocellular; Visual; NMDA
17.  Normal form from biological motion despite impaired ventral stream function 
Neuropsychologia  2011;49(5):1033-1043.
Research highlights
▶ Normal biological motion processing can exist independently from form processing. ▶ Intact ventral stream processing is not necessary for biological form-from-motion. ▶ Proper ventral stream processing is necessary for non-biological form-from-motion. ▶ Normal visual inputs from V5/MT+ can suffice to activate the action perception system. ▶ Biological motion can be processed successfully even with compromised ventral stream.
We explored the extent to which biological motion perception depends on ventral stream integration by studying LG, an unusual case of developmental visual agnosia. LG has significant ventral stream processing deficits but no discernable structural cortical abnormality. LG's intermediate visual areas and object-sensitive regions exhibit abnormal activation during visual object perception, in contrast to area V5/MT+ which responds normally to visual motion (Gilaie-Dotan, Perry, Bonneh, Malach, & Bentin, 2009). Here, in three studies we used point light displays, which require visual integration, in adaptive threshold experiments to examine LG's ability to detect form from biological and non-biological motion cues. LG's ability to detect and discriminate form from biological motion was similar to healthy controls. In contrast, he was significantly deficient in processing form from non-biological motion. Thus, LG can rely on biological motion cues to perceive human forms, but is considerably impaired in extracting form from non-biological motion. Finally, we found that while LG viewed biological motion, activity in a network of brain regions associated with processing biological motion was functionally correlated with his V5/MT+ activity, indicating that normal inputs from V5/MT+ might suffice to activate his action perception system. These results indicate that processing of biologically moving form can dissociate from other form processing in the ventral pathway. Furthermore, the present results indicate that integrative ventral stream processing is necessary for uncompromised processing of non-biological form from motion.
PMCID: PMC3083513  PMID: 21237181
Biological motion; Form agnosia; Form from motion; Point-light displays; Ventral visual stream
18.  Perception of biological motion in visual agnosia 
Over the past 25 years, visual processing has been discussed in the context of the dual stream hypothesis consisting of a ventral (“what”) and a dorsal (“where”) visual information processing pathway. Patients with brain damage of the ventral pathway typically present with signs of visual agnosia, the inability to identify and discriminate objects by visual exploration, but show normal perception of motion perception. A dissociation between the perception of biological motion and non-biological motion has been suggested: perception of biological motion might be impaired when “non-biological” motion perception is intact and vice versa. The impact of object recognition on the perception of biological motion remains unclear. We thus investigated this question in a patient with severe visual agnosia, who showed normal perception of non-biological motion. The data suggested that the patient's perception of biological motion remained largely intact. However, when tested with objects constructed of coherently moving dots (“Shape-from-Motion”), recognition was severely impaired. The results are discussed in the context of possible mechanisms of biological motion perception.
PMCID: PMC3428581  PMID: 22973210
vision; agnosia; ventral stream; biological motion; perception
19.  Enhanced local processing of dynamic visual information in autism: Evidence from speed discrimination 
Neuropsychologia  2012;50(5):733-739.
An important issue for understanding visual perception in autism concerns whether individuals with this neurodevelopmental disorder possess an advantage in processing local visual information, and if so, what is the nature of this advantage. Perception of movement speed is a visual process that relies on computation of local spatiotemporal signals but requires the comparison of information from more than a single spatial location or temporal point. This study examined speed discrimination in adolescents (ages 13–18 years old) with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Compared to healthy controls (n = 17), individuals with ASD (n = 19) showed similarly precise speed discrimination when two comparison motion stimuli (random dot patterns) were presented closely in time (0.5 s). With a longer temporal interval (3 s) between the motion stimuli, individuals with ASD outperformed healthy controls on speed discrimination. On a second task—global motion perception—in which individuals were asked to detect coherent motion, individuals with ASD exhibited slightly degraded performance levels. The observed temporally selective enhancement in speed discrimination indicates that a local processing advantage in autism develops over a longer temporal range and is not limited to the spatial domain. These results suggest a dynamic perceptual mechanism for understanding, and therapeutically addressing, atypical visual processing in this neurodevelopmental disorder.
PMCID: PMC4094132  PMID: 22261399
Visual system; Motion; Autism; Local processing; Speed discrimination; Neurodevelopment
20.  Impaired Perception of Facial Motion in Autism Spectrum Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102173.
Facial motion is a special type of biological motion that transmits cues for socio-emotional communication and enables the discrimination of properties such as gender and identity. We used animated average faces to examine the ability of adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to perceive facial motion. Participants completed increasingly difficult tasks involving the discrimination of (1) sequences of facial motion, (2) the identity of individuals based on their facial motion and (3) the gender of individuals. Stimuli were presented in both upright and upside-down orientations to test for the difference in inversion effects often found when comparing ASD with controls in face perception. The ASD group’s performance was impaired relative to the control group in all three tasks and unlike the control group, the individuals with ASD failed to show an inversion effect. These results point to a deficit in facial biological motion processing in people with autism, which we suggest is linked to deficits in lower level motion processing we have previously reported.
PMCID: PMC4108352  PMID: 25054288
21.  Aging of Low and High Level Vision: From Chromatic and Achromatic Contrast Sensitivity to Local and 3D Object Motion Perception 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55348.
The influence of normal aging in early, intermediate and high-level visual processing is still poorly understood. We have addressed this important issue in a large cohort of 653 subjects divided into five distinct age groups, [20;30[, [30;40[, [40;50[, [50;60[and [60;[. We applied a broad range of psychophysical tests, testing distinct levels of the visual hierarchy, from local processing to global integration, using simple gratings (spatial contrast sensitivity -CS- using high temporal/low spatial frequency or intermediate spatial frequency static gratings), color CS using Landolt patches, moving dot stimuli (Local Speed Discrimination) and dot patterns defining 3D objects (3D Structure from Motion, 3D SFM). Aging data were fitted with linear or quadratic regression models, using the adjusted coefficient of determination (R2a) to quantify the effect of aging. A significant effect of age was found on all visual channels tested, except for the red-green chromatic channel. The high temporal low spatial frequency contrast sensitivity channel showed a mean sensitivity loss of 0.75 dB per decade (R2a = 0.17, p<0.001), while the lower intermediate spatial frequency channel showed a more pronounced decrease, around 2.35 dB (R2a = 0.55, p<0.001). Concerning low-level motion perception, speed discrimination decreased 2.71°/s (R2a = 0.18, p<0.001) and 3.15°/s (R2a = 0.13, p<0.001) only for short presentations for horizontal and oblique meridians, respectively. The 3D SFM task, requiring high-level integration across dorsal and ventral streams, showed the strongest (quadratic) decrease of motion coherence perception with age, especially when the task was temporally constrained (R2a = 0.54, p<0.001). These findings show that visual channels are influenced by aging into different extent, with time presenting a critical role, and high-level dorso-ventral dominance of deterioration, which accelerates with aging, in contrast to the other channels that show a linear pattern of deterioration.
PMCID: PMC3561289  PMID: 23383163
22.  An asymmetry of translational biological motion perception in schizophrenia 
Background: Biological motion perception is served by a network of regions in the occipital, posterior temporal, and parietal lobe, overlapping areas of reduced cortical volume in schizophrenia. The atrophy in these regions is assumed to account for deficits in biological motion perception described in schizophrenia but it is unknown whether the asymmetry of atrophy found in previous studies has a perceptual correlate. Here we look for possible differences in sensitivity to leftward and rightward translation of point-light biological motion in data collected for a previous study and explore its underlying neurobiology using functional imaging.
Methods: n = 64 patients with schizophrenia and n = 64 controls performed a task requiring the detection of leftward or rightward biological motion using a standard psychophysical staircase procedure. six control subjects took part in the functional imaging experiment.
Results: We found a deficit of leftward but not rightward biological motion (leftward biological motion % accuracy patients = 57.9% ± 14.3; controls = 63.6% ± 11.3 p = 0.01; rightward biological motion patients = 62.7% ± 12.4; controls = 64.1% ± 11.7; p > 0.05). The deficit reflected differences in distribution of leftward and rightward accuracy bias in the two populations. Directional bias correlated with functional outcome as measured by the Role Functioning Scale in the patient group when co-varying for negative symptoms (r = -0.272, p = 0.016). Cortical regions with preferential activation for leftward or rightward translation were identified in both hemispheres suggesting the psychophysical findings could not be accounted for by selective atrophy or functional change in one hemisphere alone.
Conclusion: The findings point to translational direction as a novel functional probe to help understand the underlying neural mechanisms of wider cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3712255  PMID: 23882242
functional outcome; motion perception; STS; social cognition; translational motion; fMRI
23.  Disentangling weak coherence and executive dysfunction: planning drawing in autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. 
A tendency to focus on details at the expense of configural information, 'weak coherence', has been proposed as a cognitive style in autism. In the present study we tested whether weak coherence might be the result of executive dysfunction, by testing clinical groups known to show deficits on tests of executive control. Boys with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were compared with age- and intelligence quotient (IQ)-matched boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and typically developing (TD) boys, on a drawing task requiring planning for the inclusion of a new element. Weak coherence was measured through analysis of drawing style. In line with the predictions made, the ASD group was more detail-focused in their drawings than were either ADHD or TD boys. The ASD and ADHD groups both showed planning impairments, which were more severe in the former group. Poor planning did not, however, predict detail-focus, and scores on the two aspects of the task were unrelated in the clinical groups. These findings indicate that weak coherence may indeed be a cognitive style specific to autism and unrelated to cognitive deficits in frontal functions.
PMCID: PMC1693126  PMID: 12639335
24.  Patterns of visual sensory and sensorimotor abnormalities in autism vary in relation to history of early language delay 
Visual motion perception and pursuit eye movement deficits have been reported in autism. However, it is unclear whether these impairments are related to each other or toclinical symptoms of the disorder. High-functioning individuals with autism (41 with and 36 without delayed language acquisition) and 46 control subjects participated in the present study. All three subject groups were matched on chronological age and Full-Scale IQ. The autism group with delayed language acquisition had bilateral impairments on visual motion discrimination tasks, while the autism group without delay showed marginal impairments only in the left hemifield. Both autism groups showed difficulty tracking visual targets, but only the autism group without delayed language acquisition showed increased pursuit latencies and a failure to show the typical rightward directional advantage in pursuit. We observed correlations between performance on the visual perception and pursuit tasks in both autism groups. However, pursuit performance was correlated with manual motor skills only in the autism group with delayed language, suggesting that general sensorimotor or motor disturbances are a significant additional factor related to pursuit deficits in this subgroup. These findings suggest that there may be distinct neurocognitive phenotypes in autism associated with patterns of early language development.
PMCID: PMC2928719  PMID: 18954478
autism phenotypes; visual motion perception; visual pursuit; population heterogeneity; language development; autism subtypes
25.  The effect of semantic and emotional context on written recall for verbal language in high functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder 
OBJECTIVE—Several deficits have been proposed to account for cognitive impairment in autism including an inability to comprehend the perspectives of others ("theory of mind"), an inability to process emotional information, and difficulty drawing together diverse information in context ("central coherence"). Because context (central coherence) and emotion can influence memory, a study was designed to show if autism spectrum disorder was associated with impaired utilisation of context and emotion in recall; and if impairments in theory of mind processing would influence recall in autism spectrum disorder.
METHODS—Ten high functioning subjects with autism spectrum disorder and 13 age and IQ matched controls were tested using recall tests. In the first coherence memory test, subjects listened to a series of word lists that were in varying degrees of syntactic and semantic (coherent) order and were asked to recall the words. In the second coherence memory test, subjects listened to stories consisting of sentences that were, or were not, in logical (coherent) order. In the emotional memory test, the subjects listened to sentences that were highly emotional or non-emotional. In the theory of mind test, the subjects listened to stories requiring varying levels of understanding of the perspectives of others.
RESULTS—There were no significant differences between groups in recall of coherent versus incoherent word lists, nor was there a significant difference between groups in recall of coherent versus incoherent stories. However, the control subjects recalled more of the emotional than non-emotional sentences, whereas the autism spectrum disorder group did not show such a difference. No significant difference existed in recall of stories requiring varying levels of understanding of the perspectives of others among subjects with autism spectrum disorder, and subjects with autism spectrum disorder did not differ from control subjects in the influence of theory of mind content on story recall.
CONCLUSION—The study shows that memory in high functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder is facilitated by emotional content to a lesser degree than it is facilitated by coherence. Therefore, impairments in emotional processing cannot be considered as simply an effect of the "weak central coherence" theory in autism spectrum disorder. Whereas the reasons for this emotional deficit are unknown, evidence of abnormalities of the limbic structures in autism spectrum disorder may provide an anatomical explanation.

PMCID: PMC2170365  PMID: 9810938

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