Laurent Mottron Laboratory

My research group explores how autistic people process information. We are therefore interested in describing the perceptual, memory and reasoning mechanisms by which autistic people perceive the world, construct representations and manipulate them. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the integration of autistic people into society whatever their age, whilst respecting their differences.

February  2022

Positive, negative, neutral-or unknown? The perceived valence of emotions expressed by young autistic children in a novel context suited to autism

In this article, Claudine Jacques and her colleagues explain that the emotions of people with autism are considered either too negative and not positive enough, or as unusual, from a very young age. Two explanatory factors may account for these perceptions. The first factor is that observers may not understand the facial expressions of people with autism. The second is the contexts that are recommended for assessing the emotions of people with autism, as these would be more appropriate for people without autism. In our study, we assessed the emotions of young children with autism in a context including objects likely to interest them, the Montreal Stimulation Situation. In this novel setting, the facial expressions of young children with and without autism were assessed as positive, negative, neutral, or "unknown"-a category we created to characterize emotions that observers perceive but do not understand. The results of the study showed that children with autism and typical children did not differ in positive, negative or neutral facial emotions. They only differed in the expression of unknown emotions, which were only present in children with autism. This study also found that there was a co-occurrence between the repetitive behaviors of children with autism and positive, neutral, and unknown emotions, but not with negative emotions. 

November 2021

Childhood diagnoses in individuals diagnosed with autism in adulthood

When a diagnosis of autism is made only in adulthood, one may wonder whether it is because the person was previously thought to have another condition that masked the autism, or that he or she just did not have enough signs to be assessed. To answer this question, we looked at the Danish database to see what diagnoses these people had in childhood. The results show that the vast majority of individuals diagnosed after age 18 had no other diagnosis before age 11. This suggests that late diagnoses are made in individuals who show very few signs in childhood, and therefore do not fit the classic definition of autism. This raises the question of whether early and late diagnoses really belong to the same conditions, with a high risk that some of them do not.  

July 2021

Autism comorbidities show elevated female-to-male odds ratios and are associated with the age of first autism diagnosis

New article of Eya-Mist Rødgaard and colleagues investigating autism comorbidity using the Danish National Patient Registry. The results indicate that females with autism have a higher risk of comorbidity than would be expected from sex-ratios in the general population, and that childhood comorbidity rates are strongly associated with the age at which autism is diagnosed.

Interview by Niko McCarty, Spectrum (New-York / California) about our article. 

July 2021

In Prototypical Autism, the Genetic Ability to Learn Language Is Triggered by Structured Information, Not Only by Exposure to Oral Language

In this article, Laurent Mottron, Alexia Ostrolenk, and David Gagnon stress the importance of considering the diversity of learning styles. In prototypical autism, the genetic ability to learn language is triggered by structured information, not just exposure to oral language It has now been shown that autistic people can develop / learn language in an atypical way; for example by favoring non-social learning (television, radio, books) rather than social learning (verbal exchanges with others). This non-social language acquisition is a strong argument in favor of nativist models of human language acquisition and puts into perspective the importance of social interaction in the process. Nativist models suggest that mental structures present from birth allow us to acquire language skills.

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This website features the work of autistic artists!

Drawings by Denis Boudouard (EC in the scientific literature)

EC was an autistic man who passed away in the 1990s, and possessed the ability to draw inanimate objects in 3D. His drawings were almost always done on A4 paper using black fine felt-tip or ballpoint pens, with little color. Without using a ruler, or ever needing to touch up his work, EC was able to trace perfect lines, circles and ellipses. He was also able to draw an object as it rotated through space, without needing to manipulate or walk around the object. Motors, explosions and angry women were recurrent themes in EC’s work. A project looking into his exceptional skills (Mottron & Belleville, 1993, 1995) lay the groundwork for models of perceptual “overfunctioning” in autism.