Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Kerry Jordan


Kerry Jordan


Maryellen McClain Verdoes


Mona Buhusi


Jessica Shumway


Timothy Shahan


Evidence suggests that individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be particularly inclined toward math proficiency, especially in adulthood. There is also evidence, however, that many of those with an ASD struggle in math as children compared to their typically-developing peers. These ostensibly inconsistent findings may indicate that individuals with an ASD struggle with number sense, a precursor to formal math, rather than with formal math per se. This account is compatible with evidence of a specific form of neural dysregulation, excitatory/inhibitory imbalance, in ASD that results in reduced signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) for processes that occur in downstream neural regions (such as association cortex). Based on this view, formal math, a task with enhanced SNR due to standardization, would likely be intact for individuals with an ASD, while number sense, a domain localized to association cortex that lacks SNR enhancement via standardization, would take longer to sufficiently refine and would delay formal math acquisition for this population. The current studies examined whether a neural dysregulation account of ASD effectively predicts and explains numerical cognition performance across ASD traits. Experiment 1 examined whether scores on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient and the Systemizing Quotient predict performance on measures of numerical cognition consistent with a neural dysregulation account and in contrast to a traditional hyper-systemizing account of ASD. Experiment 2 examined whether strengthening the stimulus signal by presenting stimuli multimodally improves number sense performance across the range of ASD traits, as well as whether manipulation of high-level stimulus features affects multisensory integration in a manner consistent with a neural dysregulation account.