Evidence for Diminished Multisensory Integration in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit alterations in sensory processing, including changes in the integration of information across the different sensory modalities. In the current study, we used the sound-induced flash illusion to assess multisensory integration in children with ASD and typically-developing (TD) controls. Thirty-one children with ASD and 31 age and IQ matched TD children (average age = 12 years) were presented with simple visual (i.e., flash) and auditory (i.e., beep) stimuli of varying number. In illusory conditions, a single flash was presented with 2–4 beeps. In TD children, these conditions generally result in the perception of multiple flashes, implying a perceptual fusion across vision and audition. In the present study, children with ASD were significantly less likely to perceive the illusion relative to TD controls, suggesting that multisensory integration and cross-modal binding may be weaker in some children with ASD. These results are discussed in the context of previous findings for multisensory integration in ASD and future directions for research.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for this work was provided by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health Grant F32 DC011993, Multisensory Integration and Temporal Processing in ASD, a Grant from the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, VICTR VR5807.1, Development and Modulation of Multisensory Integration, National Institutes of Health Grant R34 DC010927, Evaluation of Sensory Integration Treatment in ASD, a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center MARI/Hobbs Award, the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and the Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center. We also acknowledge the help of Walter Lee and Zachary Barnett for technical assistance, and Magali Segers for clinical input.

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Correspondence to Ryan A. Stevenson.

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Stevenson, R.A., Siemann, J.K., Woynaroski, T.G. et al. Evidence for Diminished Multisensory Integration in Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 3161–3167 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2179-6

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Sensory processing
  • Audiovisual
  • Multisensory integration
  • Audition
  • Vision