Autism notes: anticipation and prediction

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Sinha, P., Kjelgaard, M. M., Gandhi, T. K., Tsourides, K., Cardinaux, A. L., Pantazis, D., … Held, R. M. (2014). Autism as a disorder of prediction.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America111(42), 15220–15225. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1416797111
 

Autism is characterized by diverse behavioral traits. Guided by theoretical considerations and empirical data, this paper develops the hypothesis that many of autism's salient traits may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. This impairment renders an otherwise orderly world to be experienced as a capriciously “magical” one. The hypothesis elucidates the information-processing roots of autism and, thereby, can aid the identification of neural structures likely to be differentially affected. Behavioral and neural measures of prediction might serve as early assays of predictive abilities in infants, and serve as useful tools in intervention design and in monitoring their effectiveness. The hypothesis also points to avenues for further research to determine molecular and circuit-level causal underpinnings of predictive impairments.

In this paper, we describe how theoretical considerations and a review of empirical data lead to the hypothesis that some salient aspects of the autism phenotype may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. With compromised prediction skills, an individual with autism inhabits a seemingly “magical” world wherein events occur unexpectedly and without cause. Immersion in such a capricious environment can prove overwhelming and compromise one’s ability to effectively interact with it. If validated, this hypothesis has the potential of providing unifying insights into multiple aspects of autism, with attendant benefits for improving diagnosis and therapy.

 

Brisson J, Warreyn P, Serres J, Foussier S, Adrien-Louis J. Motor anticipation failure in infants with autism: a retrospective analysis of feeding situations. Autism. 2012 Jul;16(4):420-9. doi: 10.1177/1362361311423385. Epub 2012 Jan 16. PubMed PMID: 22250193.
 

Previous studies on autism have shown a lack of motor anticipation in children and adults with autism. As part of a programme of research into early detection of autism, we focussed on an everyday situation: spoon-feeding. We hypothesize that an anticipation deficit may be found very early on by observing whether the baby opens his or her mouth in anticipation of the spoon's approach. The study is based on a retrospective analysis from family home movies. Observation of infants later diagnosed with autism or an autismspectrum disorder (ASD) (n = 13) and infants with typical development (n = 14) between 4 and 6 months old show that theautism/ASD group has an early anticipation deficit.