Atypical sensory processing is prevalent in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Up to 90% of children with ASD demonstrate altered sensory experiences during their early developmental period, affecting all sensory modalities and contributing to difficulties in higher-order cognitive and social functions. These sensory differences in ASD have been supported by two lines of evidence, including findings from atypical sensory responsiveness and psychophysical measurement of sensory perception. However, it is still not clear how sensory processing at the clinical level (i.e., sensory responsiveness) and that at the neuroscientific level (i.e., unisensory temporal acuity, audiovisual temporal binding window) are interconnected.
In order to address such an issue, Dr. Raymond Chan’s team from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology has conducted a study to investigate the relationship between sensory responsiveness (assessed by the Adult/Adolescent Sensory Profile) and audiovisual temporal integration (measured by unisensory temporal order judgement (TOJ) tasks and audiovisual simultaneity judgement (SJ) tasks) in 94 typically-developing adolescents. Their findings showed that adolescents with higher levels of autistic traits exhibited more difficulties to separate visual stimuli in time (i.e., larger visual TOJ threshold) and showed higher levels of atypical sensory responsiveness. Regarding the associations between different measures of sensory function, impaired visual temporal acuity, but not auditory or multisensory temporal processing, was significantly correlated with more atypical patterns of sensory responsiveness. These findings suggest that the correlation between sensory responsiveness and sensory temporal integration is modality-specific in healthy individuals, particularly affecting the processing of visual but not auditory or audiovisual stimuli. Improving the efficiency of temporal integration processing may be one important direction for us to develop appropriate intervention for clinical cases with ASD. Dr. Chan’s team is planning to conduct an innovative non-pharmacological multisensory integration intervention study to improve the ability of children with ASD to integrate multisensory stimulation more effectively.
This study was supported by a grant form National Science Foundation China and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology.
The paper is now available online from Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Zhou, H. Y., Yang, H. X., Shi, L. J., Lui, S. S. Y., Cheung, E. F. C., & Chan, R. C. K.* (2020). Correlations between audiovisual temporal processing and sensory responsiveness in adolescents with autistic traits. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Zhou, H. Y., Shi, L. J., Yang, H. X., Cheung, E. F. C., & Chan, R. C. K. (2020). Audiovisual temporal integration and rapid temporal recalibration in adolescents and adults: Age-related changes and its correlation with autistic traits. Autism Research, 13(4), 615–626.
Zhou, H. Y., Cheung, E. F. C., & Chan, R. C. K. (2020). Audiovisual temporal integration: Cognitive processing, neural mechanisms, developmental trajectory and potential interventions. Neuropsychologia, 140, 107396.
Ms. LIU Chen
Institute of Psychology