Measuring visual electrophysiological responses in individuals with low-functioning autism: a feasibility and pilot study

Kyongje Sung, Hanna Glazer, Jessica O’Grady, Mindy L. McEntee, Laura Bosley, Daniel Salo Reich, Barry Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although visual abnormalities are considered common in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, the associated electrophysiological markers have remained elusive. One impediment has been that methodological challenges often preclude testing individuals with low-functioning autism (LFA). Methods: In this feasibility and pilot study, we tested a hybrid visual evoked potential paradigm tailored to individuals with LFA that combines passively presented visual stimuli to elicit scalp-recorded evoked responses with a behavioral paradigm to maintain visual attention. We conducted a pilot study to explore differences in visual evoked response patterns across three groups: individuals with LFA, with high-functioning autism (HFA), and with typical development. Results: All participants with LFA met criteria for study feasibility by completing the recordings and producing measurable cortical evoked waveform responses. The LFA group had longer (delayed) cortical response latencies on average as compared with the HFA and typical development groups. We also observed group differences in visually induced alpha spectral power: the LFA group showed little to no prestimulus alpha activity in contrast to the HFA and typical development groups that showed increased prestimulus alpha activity. This observation was confirmed by the bootstrapped confidence intervals, suggesting that the absence of prestimulus alpha power may be a potential electrophysiological marker of LFA. Conclusion: Our results confirm the utility of tailoring visual electrophysiology paradigms to individuals with LFA in order to facilitate inclusion of individuals across the autism spectrum in studies of visual processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Autism
  • EEG alpha spectral power
  • Low-functioning autism
  • Visual evoked potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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