Correlations Between Audiovisual Temporal Processing and Sensory Responsiveness in Adolescents with Autistic Traits

Abstract

Atypical sensory processing has recently gained much research interest as a key domain of autistic symptoms. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit difficulties in processing the temporal aspects of sensory inputs, and show altered behavioural responses to sensory stimuli (i.e., sensory responsiveness). The present study examined the relation between sensory responsiveness (assessed by the Adult/Adolescent Sensory Profile) and audiovisual temporal integration (measured by unisensory temporal order judgement (TOJ) tasks and audiovisual simultaneity judgement (SJ) tasks) in typically-developing adolescents (n = 94). We found that adolescents with higher levels of autistic traits exhibited more difficulties in separating visual stimuli in time (i.e., larger visual TOJ threshold) and showed a stronger bias to perceive sound-leading audiovisual pairings as simultaneous. Regarding the associations between different measures of sensory function, reduced visual temporal acuity, but not auditory or multisensory temporal processing, was significantly correlated with more atypical patterns of sensory responsiveness. Furthermore, the positive correlation between visual TOJ thresholds and sensory avoidance was only found in adolescents with relatively high levels of autistic traits, but not in those with relatively low levels of autistic traits. These findings suggest that reduced visual temporal acuity may contribute to altered sensory experiences and may be linked to broader behavioural characteristics of ASD.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by a grant form National Science Foundation China (Grant No. 31970997) and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.

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Zhou, Hy., Yang, Hx., Shi, Lj. et al. Correlations Between Audiovisual Temporal Processing and Sensory Responsiveness in Adolescents with Autistic Traits. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 2450–2460 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04724-9

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Keywords

  • Sensory responsiveness
  • Temporal acuity
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Audiovisual
  • Autistic traits