Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Integr. Neurosci., 05 January 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2010.00129

Altered auditory and multisensory temporal processing in autism spectrum disorders

Leslie D. Kwakye1,2, Jennifer H. Foss-Feig3, Carissa J. Cascio2,3,4,5, Wendy L. Stone6 and Mark T. Wallace2,4,5,7,8*
  • 1 Neuroscience Graduate Program, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 2 Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 3 Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 4 Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 5 Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 6 Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 7 Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
  • 8 Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by deficits in social reciprocity and communication, as well as by repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Unusual responses to sensory input and disruptions in the processing of both unisensory and multisensory stimuli also have been reported frequently. However, the specific aspects of sensory processing that are disrupted in ASD have yet to be fully elucidated. Recent published work has shown that children with ASD can integrate low-level audiovisual stimuli, but do so over an extended range of time when compared with typically developing (TD) children. However, the possible contributions of altered unisensory temporal processes to the demonstrated changes in multisensory function are yet unknown. In the current study, unisensory temporal acuity was measured by determining individual thresholds on visual and auditory temporal order judgment (TOJ) tasks, and multisensory temporal function was assessed through a cross-modal version of the TOJ task. Whereas no differences in thresholds for the visual TOJ task were seen between children with ASD and TD, thresholds were higher in ASD on the auditory TOJ task, providing preliminary evidence for impairment in auditory temporal processing. On the multisensory TOJ task, children with ASD showed performance improvements over a wider range of temporal intervals than TD children, reinforcing prior work showing an extended temporal window of multisensory integration in ASD. These findings contribute to a better understanding of basic sensory processing differences, which may be critical for understanding more complex social and cognitive deficits in ASD, and ultimately may contribute to more effective diagnostic and interventional strategies.

Keywords: autism, multisensory, temporal binding, audiovisual, sensory processing, cross-modal integration

Citation: Kwakye LD, Foss-Feig JH, Cascio CJ, Stone WL and Wallace MT (2011) Altered auditory and multisensory temporal processing in autism spectrum disorders. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 4:129. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2010.00129

Received: 29 August 2010; Accepted: 10 December 2010;
Published online: 05 January 2011.

Edited by:

Thomas J. Perrault Jr., Wake Forest University, USA

Reviewed by:

Sophie Molholm, The City College of New York, USA
Paul J. Laurienti, Wake Forest University School of Medicine,USA

Copyright: © 2011 Kwakye, Foss-Feig, Cascio, Stone and Wallace. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Mark T. Wallace, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University, 7110 MRB III BioSci Building, 465 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37232, USA. e-mail: mark.wallace@vanderbilt.edu