Date of Award

Summer 7-16-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Russo, Natalie


Attention to Detail, Autism, ERP, Path Analysis, Perception

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology


Autistic individuals show enhanced perceptual functioning on a range of behavioral tasks. Neurophysiological evidence, from both fMRI and event related potential (ERP) studies, also supports the conclusion that autistic individuals utilize perceptual processes to a greater extent than neurotypical comparisons to support problem solving and reasoning. Despite substantial evidence supporting differential information processing streams in autism, the relationship between these processing streams and autistic traits is not well understood. One study has investigated the relationships between autistic traits, early perceptual ERPs, and subsequent cognitive ERPs in neurotypical adults; however, these relationships have yet to be explored in autistic and neurotypical children and adolescents. The goals of the current study were to test how the relationship between early perceptual and subsequent cognitive ERPs may differ between autistic and neurotypical individuals and to investigate how autistic traits may impact these relationships. 14 autistic and 10 neurotypical children and adolescents participated in a semantic violation ERP task. Path models were compared to test undirectional relationships among an early perceptual ERP (P1 component), a subsequent cognitive ERP (N400 effect), and the Attention to Detail subscale of the Autism Spectrum Quotient. Though conclusions are limited by the smaller than expected sample size (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), preliminary results indicate that autistic individuals' level of attention to detail is related to early perceptual processing, as evidenced by the condition differences in their P1 components. Path analysis model comparisons are also preliminary but support the conclusion that the relationship between participants' levels of attention to detail and the size of their N400 effect may be mediated by the size of condition differences in their P1 components. Such results replicate and extend previous findings regarding the nature of differential information processing pathways in autism and their relationship to autistic traits.


Open Access