Aberrant auditory system and its developmental implications for autism

Sci China Life Sci. 2021 Jun;64(6):861-878. doi: 10.1007/s11427-020-1863-6. Epub 2021 Jan 22.


Most infants who are later diagnosed with autism show delayed speech and language and/or atypical language profile. There is a large body of research on abnormal speech and language in children with autism. However, auditory development has been relatively under-investigated in autism research, despite its inextricable relationship with language development and despite researchers' ability to detect abnormalities in brain development and behavior in early infancy. In this review, we synthesize research on auditory processing in the prenatal period through infancy and childhood in typically developing children, children at high risk for autism, and children diagnosed with autism. We conclude that there are clear neurobiological and behavioral links between abnormal auditory development and the deficits in social communication seen in autism. We then offer perspectives on the need for a systematic characterization of early auditory development in autism, and identified questions to be addressed in future research on the development of autism.

Keywords: auditory development; auditory system; autism; early brain development; infant learning; language development; speech processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Speech Disorders / physiopathology*