Pathways of perceptual primacy: ERP evidence for relationships between autism traits and enhanced perceptual functioning

Elizabeth A. Kaplan-Kahn, Aesoon Park, Natalie Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Autistic individuals show enhanced perceptual functioning on many behavioral tasks. Neurophysiological evidence also supports the conclusion that autistic individuals utilize perceptual processes to a greater extent than neurotypical comparisons to support problem solving and reasoning; however, how atypicalities in early perceptual processing influence subsequent cognitive processes remains to be elucidated. The goals of the present study were to test the relationship between early perceptual and subsequent cognitive event related potentials (ERPs) and their relationship to levels of autism traits. 62 neurotypical adults completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and participated in an ERP task. Path models were compared to test predictive relationships among an early perceptual ERP (the P1 component), a subsequent cognitive ERP (the N400 effect), and the Attention to Detail subscale of the AQ. The size of participants' P1 components was positively correlated with the size of their N400 effect and their Attention to Detail score. Model comparisons supported the model specifying that variation in Attention to Detail scores predicted meaningful differences in participants’ ERP waveforms. The relationship between Attention to Detail scores and the size of the N400 effect was significantly mediated by the size of the P1 effect. This study revealed that neurotypical adults with higher levels of Attention to Detail show larger P1 differences, which, in turn, correspond to larger N400 effects. Findings support the Enhanced Perceptual Functioning model of autism, suggesting that early perceptual processing differences may cascade forward and result in modifications to later cognitive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108065
StatePublished - Dec 10 2021


  • Autism traits
  • ERP
  • N400
  • P1
  • Path analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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