Movement under uncertainty: The effects of the rubber-hand illusion vary along the nonclinical autism spectrum

Neuropsychologia (forthcoming)
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Recent research has begun to investigate sensory processing in relation to nonclinical variation in traits associated with the autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We propose that existing accounts of autistic perception can be augmented by considering a role for individual differences in top-down expectations for the precision of sensory input, related to the processing of state-dependent levels of uncertainty. We therefore examined ASD-like traits in relation to the rubber-hand illusion: an experimental paradigm that typically elicits crossmodal integration of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive information in an unusual illusory context. Individuals with higher ASD-like traits showed reduced effects of the rubber-hand illusion on perceived arm position and reach-to-grasp movements, compared to individuals with lower ASD-like traits. These differences occurred despite both groups reporting the typical subjective experience of the illusion concerning visuotactile integration and ownership for the rubber hand. Together these results suggest that the integration of proprioceptive information with cues for arm position derived from the illusory context differs between individuals partly in relation to traits associated with ASD. We suggest that the observed differences in sensory integration can be best explained in terms of differing expectations regarding the precision of sensory estimates in contexts that suggest uncertainty.



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Jakob Hohwy
Monash University