Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 113–126 | Cite as

The Influence of Noise on Autonomic Arousal and Cognitive Performance in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Jessica M. KeithEmail author
  • Jeremy P. Jamieson
  • Loisa Bennetto
Original Paper


This study examined the impact of noise on cognitive performance in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), while concurrently measuring sympathetic responses. Adolescents with and without ASD completed visually presented span tasks in a 2 × 2 experimental manipulation of noise (quiet vs. 75 dB gated broadband noise) and task difficulty (easier vs. harder). Analyses revealed a significant noise × difficulty interaction on performance, and a significant group × noise × difficulty interaction on sympathetic arousal. Correlational analyses indicated an adaptive effect of noise and increased arousal on performance in the easier condition for the control group and a detrimental effect of noise and increased arousal in the harder condition for the ASD group. Implications for sensory processing research and intervention development are discussed.


Autism spectrum disorder Sensory processing Cognitive performance Autonomic arousal 



This project was supported by grant funding from the Organization for Autism Research (PI: Keith) and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Grant Numbers R01 DC009439 (PI: Bennetto) and R21 DC011094 (PI: Bennetto). We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all of the families that participated in this research. We also thank the research assistants that assisted in data collection and processing, including Meredith Watson, Kelsey Lisbon, Emily Richardson, and Allison Havens.

Author Contributions

JMK conceived of the study, participated in its design, coordinated and ran all participant visits, performed data analyses, participated in data interpretation, and participated in writing the manuscript. LB participated in the design of the study, assisted with the recruitment and characterization of the participants, participated in the interpretation of results, and assisted in writing the manuscript. JPJ assisted in the design of the study, assisted with autonomic data collection and processing, participated in data interpretation, and assisted in writing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was funded by the Organization for Autism Research (Graduate Research Grant) and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Grant Numbers R01 DC009439 and R21 DC011094.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained for all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in PsychologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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