Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Symposium

Patterns of visual sensory and sensorimotor abnormalities in autism vary in relation to history of early language delay

YUKARI TAKARAEa1 c1, BEATRIZ LUNAa2a4, NANCY J. MINSHEWa2a3 and JOHN A. SWEENEYa5a6a7a8

a1 Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, Davis, California

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

a3 Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

a4 Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

a5 Center for Cognitive Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

a6 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

a7 Department of Neurology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

a8 Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Abstract

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 to clinical 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, whereas 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. (JINS, 2008, 14, 980–989.)

(Received December 21 2007)

(Revised July 07 2008)

(Accepted July 08 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Yukari Takarae, Ph.D., 267 Cousteau Place, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616. E-mail: ytakarae@ucdavis.edu