Seeing a Page in a Flipbook: Shorter Visual Temporal Integration Windows in 2-Year-Old Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Julie Freschl, David Melcher, Alice Carter, Zsuzsa Kaldy, Erik Blaser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience differences in visual temporal processing, the part of vision responsible for parsing continuous input into discrete objects and events. Here we investigated temporal processing in 2-year-old toddlers diagnosed with ASD and age-matched typically developing (TD) toddlers. We used a visual search task where the visibility of the target was determined by the pace of a display sequence. On integration trials, each display viewed alone had no visible target, but if integrated over time, the target became visible. On segmentation trials, the target became visible only when displays were perceptually segmented. We measured the percent of trials when participants fixated the target as a function of the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between displays. We computed the crossover point of the integration and segmentation performance functions for each group, an estimate of the temporal integration window (TIW), the period in which visual input is combined. We found that both groups of toddlers had significantly longer TIWs (125 ms) than adults (65 ms) from previous studies using the same paradigm, and that toddlers with ASD had significantly shorter TIWs (108 ms) than chronologically age-matched TD controls (142 ms). Lay Summary: We investigated how young children, with and without autism, organize dynamic visual information across time, using a visual search paradigm. We found that toddlers with autism had higher temporal resolution than typically developing (TD) toddlers of the same age – that is, they are more likely to be able to detect rapid change across time, relative to TD toddlers. These differences in visual temporal processing can impact how one sees, interprets, and interacts with the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)946-958
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • autism
  • integration
  • segmentation
  • temporal integration window
  • toddlers
  • visual temporal processing
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cognition
  • Time Perception
  • Adult
  • Visual Perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Neuroscience


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