Perception of shapes targeting local and global processes in autism spectrum disorders

Emma J. Grinter, Murray T. Maybery, Elizabeth Pellicano, Johanna C. Badcock, David R. Badcock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Several researchers have found evidence for impaired global processing in the dorsal visual stream in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, support for a similar pattern of visual processing in the ventral visual stream is less consistent. Critical to resolving the inconsistency is the assessment of local and global form processing ability. Methods: Within the visual domain, radial frequency (RF) patterns - shapes formed by sinusoidally varying the radius of a circle to add 'bumps' of a certain number to a circle - can be used to examine local and global form perception. Typically developing children and children with an ASD discriminated between circles and RF patterns that are processed either locally (RF24) or globally (RF3). Results: Children with an ASD required greater shape deformation to identify RF3 shapes compared to typically developing children, consistent with difficulty in global processing in the ventral stream. No group difference was observed for RF24 shapes, suggesting intact local ventral-stream processing. Conclusions: These outcomes support the position that a deficit in global visual processing is present in ASDs, consistent with the notion of Weak Central Coherence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-724
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • global processing
  • local processing
  • radial frequency patterns
  • ventral visual pathway


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