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Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity
Laurent Mottron, Michelle Dawson and Isabelle Soulières Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 2009 364, 1385-1391 doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0333

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Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2009) 364, 1385–1391 doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0333

Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity
` Laurent Mottron1,2,*, Michelle Dawson1 and IsabelleSoulieres1,2,3
´ ´ ˆ ` Clinique specialisee de l’autisme, Hopital Riviere-des-Prairies, 7070 Boulevard Perras, ´ ´ Montreal, Quebec, Canada H1E 1A4 2 ´ ´ ´ ´ Department of Psychiatry, Universite de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3T 1J4 3 Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA According to the enhanced perceptual functioning (EPF)model, autistic perception is characterized by: enhanced low-level operations; locally oriented processing as a default setting; greater activation of perceptual areas during a range of visuospatial, language, working memory or reasoning tasks; autonomy towards higher processes; and superior involvement in intelligence. EPF has been useful in accounting for autistic relative peaks of ability inthe visual and auditory modalities. However, the role played by atypical perceptual mechanisms in the emergence and character of savant abilities remains underdeveloped. We now propose that enhanced detection of patterns, including similarity within and among patterns, is one of the mechanisms responsible for operations on human codes, a type of material with which savants show particular facility.This mechanism would favour an orientation towards material possessing the highest level of internal structure, through the implicit detection of within- and between-code isomorphisms. A second mechanism, related to but exceeding the existing concept of redintegration, involves completion, or filling-in, of missing information in memorized or perceived units or structures. In the context ofautistics’ enhanced perception, the nature and extent of these two mechanisms, and their possible contribution to the creativity evident in savant performance, are explored. Keywords: autism; savant syndrome; perception; creativity; pattern recognition; redintegration

1. ENHANCED PERCEPTION: FROM AUTISM TO SAVANT SYNDROME Autism is characterized by enhanced perceptual ´ processing (Happe & Frith2006; Mottron et al. 2006a). The superiority of autistics in low-level cognitive operations (e.g. discrimination) is a widely replicated finding in both the visual and auditory modalities (Dakin & Frith 2005; Samson et al. 2006). At least at the group level, this advantage can be observed in most operations involving perceptual material. For example, superior discriminative performance co-occurs inthe same autistic individuals with enhanced abilities in a variety of target detection tasks involving mnemonic, attentional or visuospatial operations (Caron et al. 2006). In the auditory modality, superior pitch discrimination, labelling and memory also co-occur (Bonnel et al. 2003; Heaton 2003). Mechanisms involved in these perceptual skill superiorities are not yet fully understood, but a...
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