Author(s): Ribeiro TC, Valasek CA, Minati L, Boggio PS
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Abstract Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by impaired communication, particularly pragmatic and semantic language, resulting in verbal comprehension deficits. Semantic processing in these conditions has been studied extensively, but mostly limited only to linguistic material. Emerging evidence, however, suggests that semantic integration deficits may extend beyond the verbal domain. Here, we explored cross-modal semantic integration using visual targets preceded by musical and linguistic cues. Particularly, we have recorded the event-related potentials to evaluate whether the N400 and late positive potential (LPP) components, two widely studied electrophysiological markers of semantic processing, are differently sensitive to congruence with respect to typically developing children. Seven ASD patients and seven neurotypical participants matched by age, education and intelligence quotient provided usable data. Neuroelectric activity was recorded in response to visual targets that were related or unrelated to a preceding spoken sentence or musical excerpt. The N400 was sensitive to semantic congruence in the controls but not the patients, whereas the LPP showed a complementary pattern. These results suggest that semantic processing in ASD children is also altered in the context of musical and visual stimuli, and point to a functional decoupling between the generators of the N400 and LPP, which may indicate delayed semantic processing. These novel findings underline the importance of exploring semantic integration across multiple modalities in ASDs and provide motivation for further investigation in large clinical samples.
This article was published in Neuroreport
and referenced in Clinical and Experimental Psychology