Building blocks of others’ understanding: A perspective shift in investigating social-communicative deficit in Autism

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This opinion article discusses social cognition in autism and the need for a perspective shift. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental lifelong condition affecting over 1% of the population and characterized by significant impairments in social communication and interaction, as well as by the presence of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Pharmacological therapies can reduce comorbid symptoms, but do not directly improve social-communicative deficits. Thus, early detection/(reh)abilitation programs that improve symptoms and social functioning are crucial. In this opinion article, a perspective shift is proposed. This shift is based on the idea that core social-communicative deficits of ASD may be more efficiently tackled starting from the comprehension of anomalies in basic functions of different sensory and cognitive domains: specifically, visual/auditory perception, multisensory integration and attention. The developmental trajectories of these basic functions are supposed to play a key role in the (a)typical brain development, and they are considered as the "building blocks" of social skills development. The perspective shift proposed here, show how the study of social difficulties in ASD may take advantage of a more domain general approach. Approaching the study of ASD with this perspective shift could be promising for a number of important aspects. First, impairments or anomalies in basic functions can be considered as markers of ASD that could be useful to improve early detection and to set (reh)abilitative protocols before the onset of unequivocal behavioral symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)




Ronconi, L., Molteni, M., & Casartelli, L. (2016). Building blocks of others’ understanding: A perspective shift in investigating social-communicative deficit in Autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10(APR2016), 1–5.

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