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Neurophysiological Indices of Atypical Auditory Processing and Multisensory Integration are Associated with Symptom Severity in Autism

Abstract

Atypical processing and integration of sensory inputs are hypothesized to play a role in unusual sensory reactions and social-cognitive deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Reports on the relationship between objective metrics of sensory processing and clinical symptoms, however, are surprisingly sparse. Here we examined the relationship between neurophysiological assays of sensory processing and (1) autism severity and (2) sensory sensitivities, in individuals with ASD aged 6–17. Multiple linear regression indicated significant associations between neural markers of auditory processing and multisensory integration, and autism severity. No such relationships were apparent for clinical measures of visual/auditory sensitivities. These data support that aberrant early sensory processing contributes to autism symptoms, and reveal the potential of electrophysiology to objectively subtype autism.

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Acknowledgments

Primary funding for this work was provided through a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (MH085322 to S.M. and J.J.F.). The Human Clinical Phenotyping Core, where the children enrolled in this study were clinically evaluated, is a facility of the Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) which is funded through a center grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD P30 HD071593). A.B.B. received additional support from the Maternal & Child Health Interdisciplinary Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental & Related Disabilities (LEND). The authors express their sincere gratitude to Sarah Ruberman, Frantzy Acluche, Dr. Ted Altschuler, Joanna Peters, Kristina Dumas, and for their invaluable support during the course of this research. We thank Dr. Natalie Russo for her contributions to the clinical phenotyping of a portion of our ASD cohort. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the children and families that have contributed their time to participate in this research. An earlier version of this manuscript was submitted to the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in partial fulfillment of the first author’s doctoral degree.

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Brandwein, A.B., Foxe, J.J., Butler, J.S. et al. Neurophysiological Indices of Atypical Auditory Processing and Multisensory Integration are Associated with Symptom Severity in Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 45, 230–244 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2212-9

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Keywords

  • Electrophysiology
  • ERP
  • ASD
  • Multisensory integration
  • ADOS
  • Sensory Profile