August 5, 2009

Autism hinders reading body language

People with autism see and process the body language differently and this could prevent them from gauging people's feelings, British researchers said.

Researchers at Durham University in England showed adults with autism spectrum disorder found it difficult to identify emotions, such as anger or happiness, from short video clips of body movements without seeing faces or hearing sound.

Those who struggled most with this task also performed poorly when asked to detect the direction in which a group of dots moved coherently on a screen -- believed to be visual processing problem.

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, says the strong link between performance on the tests within the study suggests people with autism have trouble reading body movements because they process some basic visual information differently.

Study leader Dr. Anthony Atkinson says adults without autism generally performed well in both tests.

The way people move their bodies tells us a lot about their feelings or intentions, and we use this information on a daily basis to communicate with each other, Atkinson said in a statement.