Altered auditory and multisensory temporal processing in autism spectrum disorders

Leslie D. Kwakye, Jennifer H. Foss-Feig, Carissa J. Cascio, Wendy L. Stone, Mark T. Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by deficits in social reciprocity and communication, as well as by repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Unusual responses to sensory input and disruptions in the processing of both unisensory and multisensory stimuli also have been reported frequently. However, the specific aspects of sensory processing that are disrupted in ASD have yet to be fully elucidated. Recent published work has shown that children with ASD can integrate low-level audiovisual stimuli, but do so over an extended range of time when compared with typically developing (TD) children. However, the possible contributions of altered unisensory temporal processes to the demonstrated changes in multisensory function are yet unknown. In the current study, unisensory temporal acuity was measured by determining individual thresholds on visual and auditory temporal order judgment (TOJ) tasks, and multisensory temporal function was assessed through a cross-modal version of the TOJ task. Whereas no differences in thresholds for the visual TOJ task were seen between children with ASD and TD, thresholds were higher in ASD on the auditory TOJ task, providing preliminary evidence for impairment in auditory temporal processing. On the multisensory TOJ task, children with ASD showed performance improvements over a wider range of temporal intervals than TD children, reinforcing prior work showing an extended temporal window of multisensory integration in ASD. These findings contribute to a better understanding of basic sensory processing differences, which may be critical for understanding more complex social and cognitive deficits in ASD, and ultimately may contribute to more effective diagnostic and interventional strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Issue numberJANUARFY 2011
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Audiovisual
  • Autism
  • Cross-modal integration
  • Multisensory
  • Sensory processing
  • Temporal binding


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