Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
It has been hypothesized that neural synchrony underlies perceptual coherence. The hypothesis of loss of central perceptual coherence has been proposed to be at the origin of abnormal cognition in autism spectrum disorders and Williams syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder linked with autism, and a clearcut model for impaired central coherence. We took advantage of this model of impaired holistic processing to test the hypothesis that loss of neural synchrony plays a separable role in visual integration using EEG and a set of experimental tasks requiring coherent integration of local elements leading to 3-D face perception. A profound reorganization of brain activity was identified. Neural synchrony was reduced across stimulus conditions, and this was associated with increased amplitude modulation at 25–45 Hz. This combination of a dramatic loss of synchrony despite increased oscillatory activity is strong evidence that synchrony underlies central coherence. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that dissociation between amplitude and synchrony is reported in a human model of impaired perceptual coherence, suggesting that loss of phase coherence is more directly related to disruption of holistic perception.