Sound processing in ASD

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by Wayne Pereanu

What was known.
Some researchers think that some of autism's symptoms may be caused by abnormal processing of signals. For example, previous work has shown that some people with ASD may not be able to determine the order of two sounds played one after the other. Similarly, previous work has found an impairment in the ability to detect an introduced brief silent gap during a song. It has been suggested that these type of abnormal sound processing impairments may be the cause of the language impairments often described with ASD.

What's new?
J.H. Foss-Feig presented unpublished data at a poster session on November 15th. In their study, they used 128 brain wave detectors on the heads of children with ASD. These children were exposed to either a continuous sound, or a sound interrupted by silent gaps. They then had to press a button to say whether a gap was heard. Analysis of the brain readings among the children who were not able to detect a gap indicated that the had significantly reduced brain response when the gap occurred. There was also an indication that attention was oriented to other stimuli during the testing process. Overall, the work suggests that some with ASD may not process even low level auditory signals.