Atypical audiovisual temporal function in autism and schizophrenia: similar phenotype, different cause

Eur J Neurosci. 2018 May;47(10):1230-1241. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13911. Epub 2018 Apr 2.


Binding across sensory modalities yields substantial perceptual benefits, including enhanced speech intelligibility. The coincidence of sensory inputs across time is a fundamental cue for this integration process. Recent work has suggested that individuals with diagnoses of schizophrenia (SZ) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will characterize auditory and visual events as synchronous over larger temporal disparities than their neurotypical counterparts. Namely, these clinical populations possess an enlarged temporal binding window (TBW). Although patients with SZ and ASD share aspects of their symptomatology, phenotypic similarities may result from distinct etiologies. To examine similarities and variances in audiovisual temporal function in these two populations, individuals diagnosed with ASD (n = 46; controls n = 40) and SZ (n = 16, controls = 16) completed an audiovisual simultaneity judgment task. In addition to standard psychometric analyses, synchrony judgments were assessed using Bayesian causal inference modeling. This approach permits distinguishing between distinct causes of an enlarged TBW: an a priori bias to bind sensory information and poor fidelity in the sensory representation. Findings indicate that both ASD and SZ populations show deficits in multisensory temporal acuity. Importantly, results suggest that while the wider TBWs in ASD most prominently results from atypical priors, the wider TBWs in SZ results from a trend toward changes in prior and weaknesses in the sensory representations. Results are discussed in light of current ASD and SZ theories and highlight that different perceptual training paradigms focused on improving multisensory integration may be most effective in these two clinical populations and emphasize that similar phenotypes may emanate from distinct mechanistic causes.

Keywords: autism; causal inference; multisensory integration; schizophrenia; speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / etiology
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*