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Autism spectrum traits and visual processing in young adults with very low birth weight: the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight adults

  • E. Wolford (a1), A.-K. Pesonen (a1), K. Heinonen (a1), M. Lahti (a1) (a2), R. Pyhälä (a1) (a3), J. Lahti (a1) (a3) (a4), P. Hovi (a5) (a6), S. Strang-Karlsson (a5) (a6), J. G. Eriksson (a3) (a6) (a7), S. Andersson (a5), A.-L. Järvenpää (a5), E. Kajantie (a5) (a6) (a8) and K. Räikkönen (a1)...


Visual processing problems may be one underlying factor for cognitive impairments related to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We examined associations between ASD-traits (Autism-Spectrum Quotient) and visual processing performance (Rey–Osterrieth Complex Figure Test; Block Design task of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III) in young adults (mean age=25.0, s.d.=2.1 years) born preterm at very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 g) (n=101) or at term (n=104). A higher level of ASD-traits was associated with slower global visual processing speed among the preterm VLBW, but not among the term-born group (P<0.04 for interaction). Our findings suggest that the associations between ASD-traits and visual processing may be restricted to individuals born preterm, and related specifically to global, not local visual processing. Our findings point to cumulative social and neurocognitive problems in those born preterm at VLBW.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: E. Wolford, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 9, 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. (Email


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