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Mental Health - Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health

Multisensory Integration and Attention in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from Event-Related Potentials
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Author: Maurice J. C. M. Magnée et al.

by Maurice J. C. M. Magnée, Beatrice de Gelder, Herman van Engeland, Chantal Kemner

Successful integration of various simultaneously perceived perceptual signals is crucial for social behavior. Recent findings indicate that this multisensory integration (MSI) can be modulated by attention. Theories of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) suggest that MSI is affected in this population while it remains unclear to what extent this is related to impairments in attentional capacity. In the present study Event-related potentials (ERPs) following emotionally congruent and incongruent face-voice pairs were measured in 23 high-functioning, adult ASD individuals and 24 age- and IQ-matched controls. MSI was studied while the attention of the participants was manipulated. ERPs were measured at typical auditory and visual processing peaks, namely, P2 and N170. While controls showed MSI during divided attention and easy selective attention tasks, individuals with ASD showed MSI during easy selective attention tasks only. It was concluded that individuals with ASD are able to process multisensory emotional stimuli, but this is differently modulated by attention mechanisms in these participants, especially those associated with divided attention. This atypical interaction between attention and MSI is also relevant to treatment strategies, with training of multisensory attentional control possibly being more beneficial than conventional sensory integration therapy.