Body representation difficulties in children and adolescents with autism may be due to delayed development of visuo-tactile temporal binding

Recent research suggests visuo-tactile binding is temporally extended in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), although it is not clear whether this specifically underlies altered body representation in this population. In the current study children and adolescents with ASD, and typically developing controls, placed their hand into mediated reality system (MIRAGE) and saw two identical live video images of their own right hand. One image was in the proprioceptively correct location (veridical hand) and the other was displaced to either side. While visuo-tactile feedback was applied via brushstroke to the participant's (unseen) right finger, they viewed one hand image receiving synchronous brushstrokes and the other receiving brushstrokes with a temporal delay (60, 180 and 300. ms). After brushing, both images disappeared from view and participants pointed to a target, with direction of movement indicating which hand was embodied. ASD participants, like younger mental aged-matched controls, showed reduced embodiment of the spatially incongruent, but temporally congruent, hand compared to chronologically age-matched controls at shorter temporal delays. This suggests development of visuo-tactile integration may be delayed in ASD. Findings are discussed in relation to atypical body representation in ASD and how this may contribute to social and sensory difficulties within this population.