Predictive sensorimotor control in autism

Tom Arthur, Sam Vine, Mark Brosnan, Gavin Buckingham

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16 Citations (SciVal)
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Autism spectrum disorder has been characterized by atypicalities in how predictions and sensory information are processed in the brain. To shed light on this relationship in the context of sensorimotor control, we assessed prediction-related measures of cognition, perception, gaze and motor functioning in a large general population (n = 92; Experiment 1) and in clinically diagnosed autistic participants (n = 29; Experiment 2). In both experiments perception and action were strongly driven by prior expectations of object weight, with large items typically predicted to weigh more than equally-weighted smaller ones. Interestingly, these predictive action models were used comparably at a sensorimotor level in both autistic and neurotypical individuals with varying levels of autistic-like traits. Specifically, initial fingertip force profiles and resulting action kinematics were both scaled according to participants' pre-lift heaviness estimates, and generic visual sampling behaviours were notably consistent across groups. These results suggest that the weighting of prior information is not chronically underweighted in autism, as proposed by simple Bayesian accounts of the disorder. Instead, our results cautiously implicate context-sensitive processing mechanisms, such as precision modulation and hierarchical volatility inference. Together, these findings present novel implications for both future scientific investigations and the autism community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3151-3163
Number of pages13
JournalBrain : A Journal of Neurology
Issue number10
Early online date25 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) (2020). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


  • Prediction, sensory, object lifting, perception, action.


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