Behavioural and neural indices of perceptual decision-making in autistic children during visual motion tasks
Manning C., Hassall CD., Hunt L., Norcia A., Wagenmakers E-J., Evans NJ., Scerif G.
Many studies report atypical responses to sensory information in autistic individuals, yet it is not clear which stages of processing are affected, with little consideration given to decision-making processes. We combined diffusion modelling with high-density EEG to identify which processing stages differ between 50 autistic and 50 typically developing children aged 6-14 years during two visual motion tasks. Our pre-registered hypotheses were that autistic children would show task-dependent differences in sensory evidence accumulation, alongside a more cautious decision-making style and longer non-decision time across tasks. We tested these hypotheses using hierarchical Bayesian diffusion models with a rigorous blind modelling approach, finding no conclusive evidence for our hypotheses. Using a data-driven method, we identified a response-locked centro-parietal component previously linked to the decision-making process. The build-up in this component did not consistently relate to evidence accumulation in autistic children. This suggests that the relationship between the EEG measure and diffusion-modelling is not straightforward in autistic children. Compared to a related study of children with dyslexia, motion processing differences appear less pronounced in autistic children. Our results also provide weak evidence that ADHD symptoms moderate perceptual decision-making in autistic children.