A Preliminary Comparison of Multisensory Integration in Boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typically Developing Controls

Barbara Ann Brett-Green, Sigourney F Rush, Jasmine Shepherd, Nathan Sharpless, William J Gavin, Patricia L Davies


AIM Evidence is increasing that individuals with autism spectrum disorder haveimpairments in their ability to integrate information across different sensory modalities.To further explore this issue, event-related potentials were used to compare auditoryand somatosensory processing as well as multisensory auditory-somatosensoryintegration for five boys ages 6 - 12 years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder andfive typically developing age- and gender-matched controls. MATERIALS ANDMETHODS Event related potentials were recorded from thirty-two scalp electrodeswhile participants watched a silent cartoon and three types of sensory stimulation weredelivered: bilateral auditory clicks, vibro-tactile stimulation of the right palm, and bothsimultaneously. RESULTS Visual inspection of event related potential data suggeststhat both unisensory and multisensory processing may be atypical in the children withautism spectrum disorder. To index multisensory integration, responses to simultaneousmultisensory auditory-somatosensory stimulation were compared to the summedunisensory auditory and somatosensory responses across three time windows (60 – 80ms, 80 – 110 ms, and 110 – 150 ms) separately for the two groups. Statistical analysesshowed multiple time windows and electrode locations where statistically significantmultisensory integration occurred in typically developing children; however, nosignificant integration was found during any time window examined for the children withautism spectrum disorder. Additional comparison of scores on a caregiver questionnaireshowed significant differences between the groups on the auditory filtering andvisual/auditory sensitivity sections, and the total score. CONCLUSION This datasupports existing research indicating that sensory behavior and multisensory integrationare atypical in children with autism spectrum disorder.


autistic disorder, evoked potentials, child

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