Predictive Sensorimotor Control in Autism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Autism Spectrum Disorder has been characterised 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 one) and in clinicallydiagnosed autistic people (n = 29; experiment two). In both these 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 employed 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’ prelift 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 applied autism community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1594-1606
Number of pages13
JournalBrain : A Journal of Neurology
Publication statusAcceptance date - 16 Jun 2020


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

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