Utilizing temporal cues to integrate and separate modalities of sensory information is a fundamental ability for human being to function properly in everyday life. It is particularly important for us to integrate and transfer audiovisual information from the social context to facilitate effective communication. For example, social interactions require the integration of another person’s face, voice, lip movement and gestures, failure of which may lead to misinterpretation and abnormal social responses. Empirical findings have suggested that such ability emerges as early as the first year of life for speech and non-speech stimuli. However, the size of the temporal processing that allows us to integrate unrelated stimuli to a meaningful signal (temporal binding window) may follow a U-shaped pattern, with both children and elder people exhibiting a wider temporal binding window to detect and integrate audiovisual asynchrony information comparing to younger people. Nevertheless, it is still not fully clear whether the maturity of temporal binding window in teenage years would be influenced by speech and non-speech stimuli. Moreover, it is also unclear whether altered temporal binding windows would be associated with a set of subclinical traits such as those with higher levels of autistic and schizotypal traits.
In order to address these unclear issues, Dr. Raymond Chan’s team from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology administered a set of tasks specifically examining the developmental changes of the ability to detect audiovisual asychrony and rapidly adjust sensory decisions in a group of 36 young teenagers (11-14 years old) and 42 young adults (18-28 years old). They also asked the participants to complete a set of questionnaires capturing autistic and schizotypal traits. Their findings showed no age-related changes in the width of the temporal binding window within which participants were highly likely to combine multisensory stimuli. However, they did observe significant difference between the young teenagers and adults in audiovisual temporal recalibration, i.e., only older adults exhibited short-term recalibration for simple and non-speech stimuli, the young teenagers could not achieve the same performances. Moreover, no significant correlation was found between audiovisual temporal integration ability and autistic or schizotypal traits in both groups. These findings provide new and useful information on the developmental trajectory of multisensory integration, and may have potentially important implications for the detection and intervention for neurodevelopmental disorders with altered audiovisual temporal integration.
This study was supported by the National Science Foundation China, the National Key Research and Development Programme, the Beijing Training Project for the Leading Talents in Science & Technology, and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
The paper is now available from Autism Research
Zhou, H. Y., Shi, L. J., Yang, H. X., Cheung, E. F. C., Chan, R. C. K. * (2019). Audiovisual temporal integration and rapid temporal recalibration in adolescents and adults: age-related changes and its correlation with autistic traits. Autism Research
Zhou, H. Y., Cai, X. L., Weigl, M., Bang, P., Cheung, E. F. C., Chan, R. C. K.* (2018). Multisensory temporal binding window in autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia spectrum disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 86, 66-76.
Institute of Psychology