Two different people can have very different outlooks on the same things. But to what degree does a different perception of the world between two individuals actually come from an actual different experience ? This question lies at the very fundament of how we come to view ourselves as individual persons. One of the interesting aspects of perception is that it never occurs out of nothing. Whatever we let in through our senses, we weight it in the context of what we have seen (or heard, or felt) before.This way, what we have experienced in the past and what we know about the world can colour and sometimes determine what we experience, feel and perceive now.
Recent theoretical frameworks posit that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is at its core an alteration in this balancing act between prior experience and sensory input: across many different domains, individuals with ASD supposedly tend to rely far more on raw sensory input than on prior experience. This is called a hypoprior: a systematic underweighting of prior experience relative to other people. In a sense, this would make individuals with ASD see through illusions and make consistent choices more easily. On the other hand, disregarding context when interacting with the world can make it difficult to adjust to ever-changing situations, and to pick up on the many subtle cues that mark social interaction.
At the predictive brain group, I investigate whether a hypoprior really exists, at the level of the brain. To that end, I am using several perceptual tasks in which people are known to combine their sensory input with prior knowledge. Using fMRI and MEG, it becomes possible to see if and how the balance between sensory input and prior experience differs between individuals with and without ASD. The results of these experiments help us to understand the mechanisms underlying ASD.
*the painting used above is by Seth Chwas, a talented young artist with ASD