The effect of perceptual expectation on repetition suppression to faces is not modulated by variation in autistic traits

18 Sep 2017

There is substantial variation in the magnitude of the repetition suppression (RS) effects across individuals; however the causes of this variation remain unclear. In a recent study, we found that RS in occipitotemporal cortex was negatively related to individual variation in autistic traits in a neurotypical population. Recent proposals have considered autistic behaviours within a Bayesian framework, suggesting that individuals with autism may have 'attenuated priors' (i.e., their perception is less influenced by prior information). Predictive coding represents a neural instantiation of Bayesian inference, and characterises RS as reduction in prediction error between 'top-down' (prior beliefs) and 'bottom-up' (stimulus related) inputs. In accordance with this, evidence shows that RS is greater when repetition of a stimulus is expected relative to when it is unexpected. Here, using an established paradigm which manipulates the probability of stimulus repetition, we investigated the effect of perceptual expectation on RS in a group of neurotypical individuals varying on a measure of autistic traits. We predicted that the magnitude of the perceptual expectation effect would be negatively related to individual differences in autistic traits. We found a significant effect of perceptual expectation on RS in face-selective regions (i.e., greater RS when repetitions were expected relative to unexpected). However, there was no evidence of a relationship between autistic traits and the magnitude of this effect in any face-selective region of interest (ROI). These findings provide a challenge for the proposal that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) may be associated with the attenuated influence of prior information.