Visual perception of unstructured figures in patients with autism spectrum disorder : a preliminary study Visual perception of unstructured figures in patients with autism spectrum disorder : a preliminary study

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    • Muramatsu Tomoko
    • Department of Psychiatry and Neurobiology, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa University
    • Munesue Toshio
    • Research Center for Child Mental Development, Kanazawa University


Ambiguous figures, such as the reversible figure of the girl/old women (Boring, 1930), have inspired an enormous amount of research into the domain of visual perception. However, visual perception of unstructured figures, such as stains on walls, which contain no meanings themselves, has not been a main topic of research in healthy subjects or in subjects with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The aims of this study were to obtain inkblot responses characteristic of subjects with ASD (n=36), to compare these response to those of healthy subjects (n=50), and to assess whether these responses had any relevance to ASD traits, as evaluated using standard questionnaires, such as the Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Empathy Quotient (EQ). All of the responses of each subject were scored using the Exner Comprehensive Scoring System, which is the standard method for evaluating responses to the Rorschach test. The scores of total responses were not different between the subjects with ASD and healthy subjects. Only the scores for the variable designated FM were significantly lower in ASD subjects compared to healthy subjects, indicating that the subjects perceived animals in motion in their visual perceptions of unstructured figures in inkblots. Furthermore, the FM scores demonstrated a significantly inverse correlation with the AQ scores and were significantly correlated with the EQ scores. Each variable of M indicated a response of humans in motion, with m indicating a response of inanimate in motion, Human indicating total responses concerning humans, and Animal indicating total responses concerning animals; these measurements were not different between the two groups and were not correlated with the scores on the AQ or the EQ. Based on this preliminary study, representations of animals in motion in visual perception may be a subject that could shed light on the biological relevance between unstructured figures and autism traits.


  • Journal of Brain Science

    Journal of Brain Science 40(0), 5-27, 2013

    Japan Brain Science society

References:  46


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