Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1904–1909 | Cite as

Brief Report: Biological Sound Processing in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

  • Melissa Lortie
  • Léa Proulx-Bégin
  • Dave Saint-Amour
  • Dominique Cousineau
  • Hugo Théoret
  • Jean-François Lepage
Brief Report


There is debate whether social impairments in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are truly domain-specific, or if they reflect generalized deficits in lower-level cognitive processes. To solve this issue, we used auditory-evoked EEG responses to assess novelty detection (MMN component) and involuntary attentional orientation (P3 component) induced by socially-relevant, human-produced, biological sounds and acoustically-matched control stimuli in children with ASD and controls. Results show that early sensory and novelty processing of biological stimuli are preserved in ASD, but that automatic attentional orientation for biological sounds is markedly altered. These results support the notion that at least some cognitive processes of ASD are specifically altered when it comes to processing social stimuli.


Social impairments Event related potentials EEG Biological actions Auditory Attention Novelty detection MMN P3 



This work was supported by grants the Fonds de la Recherche du Québec- Santé (FRQS). ML was supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award from CIHR. JL is supported by a Junior 1 Salary Award from the FRQS.

Author Contributions

ML conceived of the study, acquired the data, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. LPB contributed to data processing, statistical analysis and helped to draft of the manuscript. DC participated in the design of the study and recruited participants. DS, HT and JL conceived of the study, supervised data processing, statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript.


This study was funded by the Fonds de la Recherche du Québec-Santé (#34604).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

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 from all individual participants included in the study or their legal tutor in the case of children.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  3. 3.CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and Department of PsychologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  5. 5.CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  6. 6.Department of PediatricsSherbrooke University, CHU Sherbrooke Research CenterSherbrookeCanada
  7. 7.Université du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-RivièresCanada
  8. 8.CHU Sainte-Justine Research CenterMontréalCanada

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