A Developmental Analysis of Auditory Processing and Adaptive Behavior in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mairin Claire Madison Cotter, Fordham University


Atypical auditory processing is consistently found in electrophysiological studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the relationship between atypical sensory processes and everyday behavior in autism is not yet understood. This study investigates whether there is a relationship between auditory processing dysfunction and poorer adaptive behavior.Relationships between auditory event-related potentials (AEPs) and adaptive behavior, as assessed by the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, were examined in a large cohort of children with ASD (N=89), confirmed by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale-2 (ADOS-2), aged 6-18, and in age- and IQ-matched neurotypically (NT) developing controls (N=120). The relationship between AEPs and autism severity was also examined for a subset of the ASD sample for whom the calibrated severity score from the ADOS-2 was available (N = 71). Participants completed a simple reaction time task to auditory tones during high-density electrophysiology recordings. Amplitude was calculated from the major AEP components over bilateral temporal and fronto-central scalp regions. Given previous research demonstrating developmental changes in the AEP, age was included in analyses to further support these findings. Group differences were interrogated through ANCOVAs, and hierarchical regression analyses were performed in both groups to assess the relationship between the AEP and Vineland domains, and separately in the ASD group between AEPs and autism severity. The potential role of lateralization of the responses was also considered since atypical lateralization of function has been previously associated with neurodevelopmental conditions (Flagg et al., 2005; Yoshimura et al., 2013). There were significant group differences in early temporal AEPs. The expected rightward lateralization of the AEP to the tonal stimuli occurred in both groups, but this was reduced in the ASD group. This smaller lateralization over temporal regions was significantly associated with poorer adaptive functioning in the domains of communication and daily living in the ASD group. These associations were not significant in the NT group. In contrast to earlier findings, the AEP was not significantly associated with autism severity. These results lend support to the thesis that atypical processing of sensory information is related to everyday behavior in autism.

Subject Area

Psychology|Neurosciences|Cognitive psychology|Disability studies|Physiology

Recommended Citation

Cotter, Mairin Claire Madison, "A Developmental Analysis of Auditory Processing and Adaptive Behavior in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28491932.