Toward a Cure Based on a Better Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Shigeru Kitazawa
  • Tamami Nakano


Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impairments in social cognition and communications. By applying multidimensional scaling to the analysis of temporo-spatial gaze behaviors, we quantitatively demonstrated that normal control participants shared highly stereotypical gaze patterns while viewing socially relevant video stimuli, whereas children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were variable in their gaze patterns. Many distant cortical areas has been implicated for such deficits of social ability. From these, we hypothesized that ASD derives from anomalous neural connections in their brain with long-range underconnectivity. In support of the hypothesis, we found a weakness of individuals with ASD in naming familiar objects moved behind a narrow slit, which was worsened by the absence of local salient features. Temporal integration of successive visual information during slit viewing involves a distributed cortical network, including higher visual areas and parietal association areas. Thus, the long-range underconnectivity implicated in the autistic brain may result in a deficit in visual temporal integration across these areas. Understanding how the inter-connections are impaired in individuals with ASD is essential for improving present methods for treatment, such as early intensive intervention using applied behavior analysis.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectral Disorder Asperger Syndrome Applied Behavior Analysis Autism Spectral Disorder Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    American Psychiatric Association (2000) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR, vol 37. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC, 943 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Baird G, Simonoff E, Pickles A, Chandler S, Loucas T, Meldrum D, Charman T (2006) Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South Thames: the special needs and autism project (SNAP). Lancet 368:210–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Nakano T, Tanaka K, Endo Y, Yamane Y, Yamamoto T, Nakano Y, Ohta H, Kato N, Kitazawa S (2010) Atypical gaze patterns in children and adults with autism spectrum disorders dissociated from developmental changes in gaze behaviour. Proc Biol Sci 277:2935–2943PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Frith U (1989) Autism: explaining the enigma. Blackwell, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Happe F, Frith U (2006) The weak coherence account: detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 36:5–25PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Nakano T, Ota H, Kato N, Kitazawa S (2010) Deficit in visual temporal integration in autism spectrum disorders. Proc Biol Sci 277:1027–1030PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Klin A, Jones W, Schultz R, Volkmar F, Cohen D (2002) Visual fixation patterns during viewing of naturalistic social situations as predictors of social competence in individuals with autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry 59:809–816PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    van der Geest JN, Kemner C, Camfferman G, Verbaten MN, van Engeland H (2002) Looking at images with human figures: comparison between autistic and normal children. J Autism Dev Disord 32:69–75PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    van der Geest JN, Kemner C, Verbaten MN, van Engeland H (2002) Gaze behavior of children with pervasive developmental disorder toward human faces: a fixation time study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 43:669–678PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dalton KM, Nacewicz BM, Johnstone T, Schaefer HS, Gernsbacher MA, Goldsmith HH, Alexander AL, Davidson RJ (2005) Gaze fixation and the neural circuitry of face processing in autism. Nat Neurosci 8:519–526PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    von Hofsten C, Uhlig H, Adell M, Kochukhova O (2009) How children with autism look at events. Res Autism Spectr Disord 3:556–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Boraston Z, Blakemore SJ (2007) The application of eye-tracking technology in the study of autism. J Physiol 581:893–898PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Young GS, Merin N, Rogers SJ, Ozonoff S (2009) Gaze behavior and affect at 6 months: predicting clinical outcomes and language development in typically developing infants and infants at risk for autism. Dev Sci 12:798–814PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gervais H, Belin P, Boddaert N, Leboyer M, Coez A, Sfaello I, Barthelemy C, Brunelle F, Samson Y, Zilbovicius M (2004) Abnormal cortical voice processing in autism. Nat Neurosci 7:801–802PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Amaral DG, Schumann CM, Nordahl CW (2008) Neuroanatomy of autism. Trends Neurosci 31:137–145PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Geschwind DH, Levitt P (2007) Autism spectrum disorders: developmental disconnection syndromes. Curr Opin Neurobiol 17:103–111PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wang K, Zhang H, Ma D, Bucan M, Glessner JT, Abrahams BS, Salyakina D, Imielinski M, Bradfield JP, Sleiman PM, Kim CE, Hou C, Frackelton E, Chiavacci R, Takahashi N, Sakurai T, Rappaport E, Lajonchere CM, Munson J, Estes A, Korvatska O, Piven J, Sonnenblick LI, Alvarez Retuerto AI, Herman EI, Dong H, Hutman T, Sigman M, Ozonoff S, Klin A, Owley T, Sweeney JA, Brune CW, Cantor RM, Bernier R, Gilbert JR, Cuccaro ML, McMahon WM, Miller J, State MW, Wassink TH, Coon H, Levy SE, Schultz RT, Nurnberger JI, Haines JL, Sutcliffe JS, Cook EH, Minshew NJ, Buxbaum JD, Dawson G, Grant SF, Geschwind DH, Pericak-Vance MA, Schellenberg GD, Hakonarson H (2009) Common genetic variants on 5p14.1 associate with autism spectrum disorders. Nature 459:528–533PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Herbert MR, Ziegler DA, Makris N, Filipek PA, Kemper TL, Normandin JJ, Sanders HA, Kennedy DN, Caviness VS Jr (2004) Localization of white matter volume increase in autism and developmental language disorder. Ann Neurol 55:530–540PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Plaisted K, Swettenham J, Rees L (1999) Children with autism show local precedence in a divided attention task and global precedence in a selective attention task. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 40:733–742PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Caron MJ, Mottron L, Berthiaume C, Dawson M (2006) Cognitive mechanisms, specificity and neural underpinnings of visuospatial peaks in autism. Brain 129:1789–1802PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Mottron L, Dawson M, Soulieres I, Hubert B, Burack J (2006) Enhanced perceptual functioning in autism: an update, and eight principles of autistic perception. J Autism Dev Disord 36:27–43PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Parks TE (1965) Post-retinal visual storage. Am J Psychol 78:145–147PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Yin C, Shimojo S, Moore C, Engel SA (2002) Dynamic shape integration in extrastriate cortex. Curr Biol 12:1379–1385PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Bisiach E, Luzzatti C, Perani D (1979) Unilateral neglect, representational schema and consciousness. Brain 102:609–618PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lovaas OI (1987) Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. J Consult Clin Psychol 55:3–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sallows GO, Graupner TD (2005) Intensive behavioral treatment for children with autism: four-year outcome and predictors. Am J Ment Retard 110:417–438PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Abrahams BS, Geschwind DH (2008) Advances in autism genetics: on the threshold of a new neurobiology. Nat Rev Genet 9:341–355PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurophysiologyJuntendo University Graduate School of MedicineBunkyo-kuJapan
  2. 2.CREST, Japan Science and Technology AgencyKawaguchi-shiJapan

Personalised recommendations