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Understanding Cortical Auditory Processing Abnormalities in Children with Autism (funded through NAAR)

Sensitivities to sound, preference for music over speech, and slowed responding to verbal information are regularly observed in children with autism. Those with full scale IQs of at least 60 are not clinically distinct from children with typical development on peripheral audiometric measures and they demonstrate normal early auditory cortical responses associated with generators on the superior temporal plane. Dysfunction in children with autism is evident in abnormal slowing of early ERPs localizable to auditory association cortex of the lateral surface of the superior temporal gyrus. A prerequisite to establishing appropriate interventions for children with autism is precise definition of dysfunction, achieved through knowledge of information and processing demands that modulate neural responses. Auditory processing offers an important window into information processing in children with autism. The goals of this study were to elucidate through use of behavioral and neurophysiologic methods neural and cognitive/linguistic mechanisms associated with auditory processing in children with autism and to understand circumstances under which neural abnormalities are ameliorated or exacerbated.