Weaker neural suppression in autism

Michael Paul Schallmo, Tamar Kolodny, Alexander M. Kale, Rachel Millin, Anastasia V. Flevaris, Richard A.E. Edden, Jennifer Gerdts, Raphael A. Bernier, Scott O. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Abnormal sensory processing has been observed in autism, including superior visual motion discrimination, but the neural basis for these sensory changes remains unknown. Leveraging well-characterized suppressive neural circuits in the visual system, we used behavioral and fMRI tasks to demonstrate a significant reduction in neural suppression in young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to neurotypical controls. MR spectroscopy measurements revealed no group differences in neurotransmitter signals. We show how a computational model that incorporates divisive normalization, as well as narrower top-down gain (that could result, for example, from a narrower window of attention), can explain our observations and divergent previous findings. Thus, weaker neural suppression is reflected in visual task performance and fMRI measures in ASD, and may be attributable to differences in top-down processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2675
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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