Research Highlights

Nature 455, 710 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455710a; Published online 8 October 2008

Human biology: Bird's eye view

Biol. Psychiatry doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.06.012 (2008)

Human biology: Bird's eye view

F. JOREZ/GETTY

People with autism have incredibly keen eyesight, seeing almost as acutely as birds of prey.

The surprise finding from Emma Ashwin and her colleagues at the University of Cambridge, UK, shows that the unusually keen senses that have been associated with the condition since the 1940s stem not from how intensely autistic people feel their senses, but from how sharp their senses actually are.

Ashwin and her team tested 15 men with autism-spectrum disorders using the Freiburg Visual Acuity and Contrast Test, and found them to have, on average, 20:7 vision. This means they can see the same detail on an object 20 metres away that a person with average vision can see at 7 metres. Birds of prey have roughly 20:6 vision. What gives people with autism hawk-like vision isn't known.