Frith has argued that people with autism show “weak central coherence,” an unusual bias toward piecemeal rather than configurational processing and a reduction in the normal tendency to process information in context. However, the precise cognitive and neurological mechanisms underlying weak central coherence are still unknown. We propose the hypothesis that the features of autism associated with weak central coherence result from a reduction in the integration of specialized local neural networks in the brain caused by a deficit in temporal binding. The visuoperceptual anomalies associated with weak central coherence may be attributed to a reduction in synchronization of high-frequency gamma activity between local networks processing local features. The failure to utilize context in language processing in autism can be explained in similar terms. Temporal binding deficits could also contribute to executive dysfunction in autism and to some of the deficits in socialization and communication.
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