Sequential pattern learning in autism spectrum disorder

Individuals with autism resist even trivial changes in the environment, and insist on sameness. Recent theories explain these behaviors with impairments in the brain mechanisms that regulates making predictions. If a person has difficulty to predict what may come next, ordinary changes in everyday life would be overwhelming, which could lead to repetitive behaviors and dissociation from social life.

 

We hypothesize that predictions are abnormally precise and are inflexibly updated in individuals with autism. To test this hypothesis, we design a novel sequence pattern task to investigate how individuals with autism make predictions, and update them according to prediction errors. In this task, circle and arrow shapes will be presented in specific orders, defined by two patterns (A or B) and five experimental conditions. Participants will be remotely trained on the task over five days from their mobile devices under our remote monitoring, in addition to the laboratory training, in order to ensure the formation of expectations about patterns in all groups.

 

On the experiment day, these patterns will be violated, creating prediction errors that could affect reaction time, response accuracy, pupil dilation rates, and evoked response potentials (ERP) upon stimuli. By analyzing these measures, we infer the belief updating mechanism, precision of beliefs and beliefs about volatility.

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For more information, contact Seydanur Tikir at stikir@mail.einstein.yu.edu.

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