Although social cognitive deficits have long been thought to underlie the characteristic and pervasive difficulties with social interaction observed in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), several recent behavioral and neuroimaging studies have indicated that visual perceptual impairments might also play a role. People with ASD show a robust bias towards detailed information at the expense of global information, although the mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon remain elusive. To address this issue, we investigated the functional field of view in a group of high-functioning children with autism (n = 13) and a paired non-ASD group (n = 13). Our results indicate that the ability to correctly detect and identify stimuli sharply decreases with greater eccentricity from the fovea in people with ASD. Accordingly, a probe analysis revealed that the functional field of view in the ASD group was only about 6.62° of retinal eccentricity, compared with 8.57° in typically developing children. Thus, children with ASD appear to have a narrower functional field of view. These results challenge the conventional hypothesis that the deficit in global processing in individuals with ASD is solely due to weak central coherence. Alternatively, our data suggest that a narrower functional field of view may also contribute to this bias.
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