28 June 2006

Dr. Liz Milne wins £90k grant from ESRC

Liz Milne has won a £90k grant from ESRC for a project entitled "Visual Field Size in Autism.". Collaborators are Dr David Buckley and Dr Helen Griffiths at the Department of Opthamology and Orthoptics. The abstract is below:

Visual Field Size in Autism

Abstract: Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder defined by a collection of impairments in social behaviour, communication and imagination. Current epidemiological surveys estimate that ASDs occur in 27.5 / 10,000 births (Fombonne, 2003). In addition to the triad of impairments (Wing & Gould, 1979) outlined above, many individuals with autism report abnormal sensory processing (Grandin, 1996; Williams, 1996) and there is a range of anecdotal and observational evidence of atypical responses to sensory stimuli in autism (Rogers & Ozonoff, 2005). Some of the most frequently cited sensory abnormalities are in the domain of visual perception and include; impairment in eye-to-eye gaze (APA, 1994), reduced gaze following (Baird, Charman et al., 2000), reduced spot-light of visual attention (Burack, 1994), enhanced perception of local detail (Plaisted, O'Riordan et al., 1998), reduced drive for global perception (Mottron & Belleville, 1993) and impaired motion perception (see Milne, Swettenham et al., 2006). Despite this list of unusual visual symptoms, there has been surprisingly little attempt to measure and document the functional integrity of the visual system in individuals with ASD. Following an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Elizabeth Milne in 2004 ("Low-level visual processing in children with autism") we have developed a research program which aims to do just this. The goal of this program is to establish which aspects of perception are atypical in autism and which are spared, and to investigate the impact that atypical perception may have on the development of the cognitive profile and behavioural symptoms of autism. The current award has been given to support an empirical investigation of the size of the visual field in children with autistic spectrum disorders.