Several authors have contributed extensively to the neurocognitive understanding of timing. In Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on the contrary, internal timing and its functioning is not well understood. In this study, we have adapted a simple finger-tapping motor task, with a timing component, as we aim at understanding whether the processing of time is preserved in this population. We have tested a group of people on the autism spectrum without intellectual disabilities and a control sample recruited from the general population, matched for age, sex, schooling and general cognitive abilities on this task with a learning and testing phase. In the testing phase, we have added two exploratory conditions where participants were exposed to intermittent light stimulation of 4 and 8 Hz. Results show that both in the learning and testing phase, besides troubles in the motor component encountered by the people on the spectrum, their timing component performance was also problematic. This reveals to be especially true for time intervals below the 1 s range, as hypothesized, whereas performance in longer intervals is clearly preserved. It was also observed that the exposure to intermittent light stimulation specifically overcomes the difficulties observed in the autistic group, at the timing components at this millisecond time range. The observed timing difficulties in this group seem to be restricted to the system responsible for the processing of time intervals in the milliseconds range, which helps accommodate disparate findings in the literature.

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This post is Copyright: Joana C. Carmo,
Carlos N. Filipe | March 8, 2024
Wiley: Journal of Neuropsychology: Table of Contents