Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Semantic Processing in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An ERP Study
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience difficulties with language, particularly higher-level functions like semantic integration. Yet some studies indicate that semantic processing of non-linguistic stimuli is not impaired, suggesting a language-specific deficit in semantic processing. Using a semantic priming task, we compared event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to lexico-semantic processing (written words) and visuo-semantic processing (pictures) in adults with ASD and adults with typical development (TD). The ASD group showed successful lexico-semantic and visuo-semantic processing, indicated by similar N400 effects between groups for word and picture stimuli. However, differences in N400 latency and topography in word conditions suggested different lexico-semantic processing mechanisms: an expectancy-based strategy for the TD group but a controlled post-lexical integration strategy for the ASD group.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorders Semantic processing ERP Language Pictures
The authors would like to thank Nancy Grund for her help with editing and Joseph Dien, Ph.D. for helpful discussions and for his review of an early draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by the Therapeutic Cognitive Neuroscience Fund and the Benjamin and Adith Miller Family Endowment on Aging, Alzheimer’s, and Autism Research. Preliminary analyses of these data were presented at the 2015 meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in San Francisco, California.
EC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, collected data, performed the statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. MC participated in the design and coordination of the study, collected data, and helped draft the manuscript. BG participated in the coordination of the study and helped draft the manuscript. KL participated in the design of the study and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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.
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