Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

New research shows that children with autism are better at combining information about moving objects than their peers, which may explain why they experience sensory overload

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) asked 33 children with autism and 33 typical children aged between 6 and 13 years to judge the average direction of a set of dots on a computer screen.

Children with autism were better at working out the overall direction of dots when they moved in different directions. However, they did not show the same enhancement when they had to ignore dots moving in random directions. These results suggest that children with autism can combine dynamic information well but may not always know what information to combine and what information to ignore.

“The ability to combine motion information helps us make sense of what we see, for example by allowing us to see the overall movement of a shoal of fish”, says researcher Dr Catherine Manning from the University of Oxford. “However, it is also important to know what information needs to be filtered out.  An increased combination of motion information may in some way ‘overload’ a child with autism in a dynamic world.”

Dr Liz Pellicano, Director of the IOE’s Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) said: “We know that autistic people see the world differently compared with non-autistic people. But exactly why these differences occur have so far been unclear. Our new research suggests that children with autism excel at integrating moving information – a skill that might be beneficial in some circumstances but, in others, might lead to the processing of too much unfiltered information, which could also lead to distress.”

Autism is a developmental condition that affects approximately one in 70 children and is best known for its effects on social interaction.  Individuals with autism also perceive and experience the world differently. These sensory processing differences have been demonstrated to impact on many aspects of day-to-day life, including academic achievement, social functioning and family life.  Understanding sensory differences, such as how children with autism see the world, is an important part of better understanding autism and developing interventions.

‘Enhanced integration of motion information in children with autism’ is published in the Journal of Neuroscience on 6 May 2015.

Similar stories

General anaesthesia should be available for dying patients - medical and ethical experts

General Research

General anaesthesia should be more widely available for patients at the end of their lives, according to Oxford experts in ethics and anaesthesia, according to a paper published by Anaesthesia (a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists).

Risk of rare blood clotting higher for COVID-19 than for vaccines

Coronavirus COVID-19 Research

COVID-19 leads to a several-times higher risk of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) blood clots than current COVID-19 vaccines.

Asthma drug budesonide shortens recovery time in non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19

Clinical Trials Coronavirus COVID-19 Research

Inhaled budesonide, a common corticosteroid, is the first widely available, inexpensive drug found to shorten recovery times in COVID-19 patients aged over 50 who are treated at home and in other community settings, reports the PRINCIPLE trial in 1,779 participants.

Link between COVID-19 infection and subsequent mental health and neurological conditions found

Coronavirus COVID-19 General Research

One in three COVID-19 survivors received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within six months of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, an observational study of more than 230,000 patient health records published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal estimates. The study looked at 14 neurological and mental health disorders.

New national study of long-term impacts of debilitating lung damage from COVID-19

Coronavirus COVID-19 General Research

A new national study will investigate the long-term effects of lung inflammation and scarring from COVID-19. The study, launched with £2 million of funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), aims to develop treatment strategies and prevent disability.