Matthew Belmonte spent four years working with Simon Baron-Cohen in Cambridge, and is now at Cornell. This passage, reflecting on priorities and presumptions rampant in autism research, is from a 2004 review.
It is quite remarkable and difficult to fathom that we currently have more functional imaging data about how the autistic brain processes a face or a theory of mind than we do about the way it processes, say, location, colour, orientation, or spatial frequency; at what level of processing do the perceptual and cognitive abnormalities begin? It is also important to recognise that absence of behavioural performance or functional activation does not necessarily imply incapacity of the corresponding brain subsystems. Rather, an apparent lack may be due to failure to engage an intact capacity. The proper stimuli or experimental paradigm can bring out such hidden abilities.
Belmonte, M.K., Cook Jr, E.H., Anderson, G.M., Rubenstein, J.L.R., Greenough, W.T., Beckel-Mitchener, A., Courchesne, E., Boulanger, L.M., Powell, S.B., Levitt, P.R., Perry, E.K., Jiang, Y., Delorey, T.M., & Tierney, E. (2004). Autism as a disorder of neural information processing: Directions for research and targets for therapy. Molecular Psychiatry, 9, 646-643.