Online ISSN : 2433-4650
Print ISSN : 0386-1058
SPECIAL ISSUE: Mind-diversity: Current directions in research on “mental disorders”
Attention and sensory processing characteristics of autism spectrum disorder as adaptive functions
Masatoshi Katagiri
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2019 Volume 62 Issue 1 Pages 25-38


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the most prominent symptoms are deficits in social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) has recently included atypical sensory responsiveness (i.e., hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input). This review discusses attentional hypotheses and sensory processing as a developmental bias to stimulation processing in social interactions in individuals with ASD. The first section reviews the weak central coherence hypothesis (Happé & Frith, 2006) and reviews the enhanced perceptual functioning hypothesis (Mottron et al., 2006), which is a basic, but not necessarily social, disturbance of the perceptual-cognitive style and focuses on detail-focused processing in ASD. These proposed hypotheses are a framework within which the perceptual characteristics of individuals with ASD can be understood. The second section discusses a possible mechanism between specific sensory processing (e.g., arousal system and interoception) and atypical social interaction (e.g., repetitive and stereotyped interests and behaviors) in ASD, based on the discussion of the predictive coding theory. Individuals with ASD limit the input of information by an attentional focus on a part of the stimulus and/or by restricted and repetitive behavior. These aspects of information processing may contribute to the generation and stabilization of models of the internal or emotional self. Thus, attentional biases such as detail-focused processing in ASD are an adaptive mechanism for managing the overabundance of visual information.

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