In humans, visual information is processed via parallel channels: the parvocellular (P) pathway analyzes color and form information, whereas the magnocellular (M) stream plays an important role in motion analysis. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often show superior performance in processing fine detail, but impaired performance in processing global structure and motion information. To date, no visual evoked potential (VEP) studies have examined the neural basis of atypical visual performance in ASD. VEPs were recorded using 128-channel high density EEG to investigate whether the P and M pathways are functionally altered in ASD. The functioning of the P and M pathways within primary visual cortex (V1) were evaluated using chromatic (equiluminant red-green sinusoidal gratings) and achromatic (low contrast black-white sinusoidal gratings) stimuli, respectively. Unexpectedly, the N1 component of VEPs to chromatic gratings was significantly prolonged in ASD patients compared to controls. However, VEP responses to achromatic gratings did not differ significantly between the two groups. Because chromatic stimuli preferentially stimulate the P-color but not the P-form pathway, our findings suggest that ASD is associated with impaired P-color pathway activity. Our study provides the first electrophysiological evidence for P-color pathway impairments with preserved M function at the V1 level in ASD.
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