Reduced primacy bias in autism during early sensory processing

Judith Goris*, Senne Braem, Shauni Van Herck, Jonas Simoens, Eliane Deschrijver, Jan R. Wiersema, Bryan Paton, Marcel Brass, Juanita Todd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Recent theories of autism propose that a core deficit in autism would be a less context-sensitive weighting of prediction errors. There is also first support for this hypothesis on an early sensory level. However, an open question is whether this decreased context sensitivity is caused by faster updating of one???s model of the world (i.e., higher weighting of new information), proposed by predictive coding theories, or slower model updating. Here, we differentiated between these two hypotheses by investigating how first impressions shape the mismatch negativity (MMN), reflecting early sensory prediction error processing. An autism and matched control group of human adults (both n = 27, 8 female) were compared on the multi-timescale MMN paradigm, in which tones were presented that were either standard (frequently occurring) or deviant (rare), and these roles reversed every block. A well-replicated observation is that the initial model (i.e., the standard and deviant sound in the first block) influences MMN amplitudes in later blocks. If autism is characterized by faster model updating, and thus a smaller primacy bias, we hypothesized (and demonstrate using a simple reinforcement learning model) that their MMN amplitudes should be less influenced by the initial context. In line with this hypothesis, we found that MMN responses in the autism group did not differ between the initial deviant and initial standard sounds as they did in the control group. These findings are consistent with the idea that autism is characterized by faster model updating during early sensory processing, as proposed by predictive coding accounts of autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3989-3999
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • autism EEG
  • mismatch negativity
  • prediction error
  • predictive coding


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