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Assessing Trial-to-Trial Variability in Auditory ERPs in Autism and Schizophrenia

  • S:I: .Developmental Approach and Targeted Treatment of Sensory Alterations
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Sensory abnormalities are characteristic of autism and schizophrenia. In autism, greater trial-to-trial variability (TTV) in sensory neural responses suggest that the system is more unstable. However, these findings have only been identified in the amplitude and not in the timing of neural responses, and have not been fully explored in schizophrenia. TTV in event-related potential amplitudes and inter-trial coherence (ITC) were assessed in the auditory mismatch negativity (MMN) in autism, schizophrenia, and controls. MMN was largest in autism and smallest in schizophrenia, and TTV was greater in autism and schizophrenia compared to controls. There were no differences in ITC. Greater TTV appears to be characteristic of both autism and schizophrenia, implicating several neural mechanisms that could underlie sensory instability.

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Data Availability

Data are available through the Open Science Framework ( and MATLAB scripts for stimulus presentation and data analysis are on GitHub (SarahMHaigh/AuditoryInAutism).


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We thank Patricia McCarroll and Michelle Perrin from the Center For Autism Research (CeFAR) at the University of Pittsburgh, Vanessa Fishel and Natasha Torrence from UPMC, and Chinmaya Lele from Carnegie Mellon University for their help in recruiting participants. An extra thanks to Dr. Brian Coffman at the University of Pittsburgh with his statistical help.


This project with funded by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award to SMH from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (Grant No. 26282). Additional support from the National Institute of Mental Health (R15 AREA MH122935) and a National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Grant No. 1632849).

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Authors and Affiliations



SMH acquired the funding and was the lead on the project, designed the study, analyzed the data, interpreted the results, and wrote the paper. LVK analyzed the data and assisted in writing the paper. PB helped design the project and collected the data. SME assisted with funding acquisition, participant recruitment and experimental design. DIL assisted with funding acquisition and the experimental design. DFS assisted with funding acquisition, experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation. MB was the mentor on this project and assisted with all levels of the study.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sarah M. Haigh.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

Protocols were approved by the Institutional Review Board at Carnegie Mellon University and were conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

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All participants gave their informed written consent.

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Haigh, S.M., Van Key, L., Brosseau, P. et al. Assessing Trial-to-Trial Variability in Auditory ERPs in Autism and Schizophrenia. J Autism Dev Disord 53, 4856–4871 (2023).

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