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. 2012 Jul;50(9):2131-41.
doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.05.003. Epub 2012 May 18.

Parameters of Semantic Multisensory Integration Depend on Timing and Modality Order Among People on the Autism Spectrum: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials

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Parameters of Semantic Multisensory Integration Depend on Timing and Modality Order Among People on the Autism Spectrum: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials

N Russo et al. Neuropsychologia. .

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) report difficulty integrating simultaneously presented visual and auditory stimuli (Iarocci & McDonald, 2006), albeit showing enhanced perceptual processing of unisensory stimuli, as well as an enhanced role of perception in higher-order cognitive tasks (Enhanced Perceptual Functioning (EPF) model; Mottron, Dawson, Soulières, Hubert, & Burack, 2006). Individuals with an ASD also integrate auditory-visual inputs over longer periods of time than matched typically developing (TD) peers (Kwakye, Foss-Feig, Cascio, Stone & Wallace, 2011). To tease apart the dichotomy of both extended multisensory processing and enhanced perceptual processing, we used behavioral and electrophysiological measurements of audio-visual integration among persons with ASD. 13 TD and 14 autistics matched on IQ completed a forced choice multisensory semantic congruence task requiring speeded responses regarding the congruence or incongruence of animal sounds and pictures. Stimuli were presented simultaneously or sequentially at various stimulus onset asynchronies in both auditory first and visual first presentations. No group differences were noted in reaction time (RT) or accuracy. The latency at which congruent and incongruent waveforms diverged was the component of interest. In simultaneous presentations, congruent and incongruent waveforms diverged earlier (circa 150 ms) among persons with ASD than among TD individuals (around 350 ms). In sequential presentations, asymmetries in the timing of neuronal processing were noted in ASD which depended on stimulus order, but these were consistent with the nature of specific perceptual strengths in this group. These findings extend the Enhanced Perceptual Functioning Model to the multisensory domain, and provide a more nuanced context for interpreting ERP findings of impaired semantic processing in ASD.

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