Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 506–523 | Cite as

Attenuated Auditory Event-Related Potentials and Associations with Atypical Sensory Response Patterns in Children with Autism

  • Franc C. L. Donkers
  • Sarah E. Schipul
  • Grace T. Baranek
  • Katherine M. Cleary
  • Michael T. Willoughby
  • Anna M. Evans
  • John C. Bulluck
  • Jeanne E. Lovmo
  • Aysenil Belger
Original Paper


Neurobiological underpinnings of unusual sensory features in individuals with autism are unknown. Event-related potentials elicited by task-irrelevant sounds were used to elucidate neural correlates of auditory processing and associations with three common sensory response patterns (hyperresponsiveness; hyporesponsiveness; sensory seeking). Twenty-eight children with autism and 39 typically developing children (4–12 year-olds) completed an auditory oddball paradigm. Results revealed marginally attenuated P1 and N2 to standard tones and attenuated P3a to novel sounds in autism versus controls. Exploratory analyses suggested that within the autism group, attenuated N2 and P3a amplitudes were associated with greater sensory seeking behaviors for specific ranges of P1 responses. Findings suggest that attenuated early sensory as well as later attention-orienting neural responses to stimuli may underlie selective sensory features via complex mechanisms.


Autism spectrum disorder Sensory processing Event-related potentials P1 N2 P3a 



This research was supported in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD42168; T32-HD40127 to S. E. S.). We thank the families whose participation made this study possible and the staff who collected the data. We also acknowledge the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center Autism Subject Registry at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the invaluable assistance of Don Trull in developing the EEG demonstration video (NICHD, P30HD03110).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franc C. L. Donkers
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sarah E. Schipul
    • 1
    • 2
  • Grace T. Baranek
    • 2
    • 4
  • Katherine M. Cleary
    • 1
  • Michael T. Willoughby
    • 5
  • Anna M. Evans
    • 1
    • 2
  • John C. Bulluck
    • 4
  • Jeanne E. Lovmo
    • 4
  • Aysenil Belger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Carolina Institute for Developmental DisabilitiesUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Allied Health SciencesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.FPG Child Development InstituteUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  6. 6.Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis CenterDurhamUSA

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