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Modelling cortical gain in autism (without neuroimaging)

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Behavioural and neural measures of visual processing indicate that perception is strongly influenced by the recent sensory past. Such context sensitive sensory responses arise from gain control mechanisms, where estimates of variability scale the driving neural responses to sensory input. Gain control can operate locally, in the form of divisive normalisation (reflecting inhibitory interactions between functionally related cell populations) or distally, in the form of precision weighting (reflecting the action of feedback connections and neuromodulators). In this talk I will first offer an account of how these mechanisms provide a computational and neurobiological framework to interrogate the notion of ‘context insensitive’ perception in autism. I will then go on to present some recent data examining how visual processing in autistic adults is contextualised by the recent sensory history. Using computational modelling approaches, we find that local normalisation of sensory responses occurs typically in autism. However, we find evidence for altered noradrenergic regulation of how sensory processing is contextualised by learned expectations.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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