Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), characterized by impairments in social communication and repetitive behaviors, often includes altered responses to sensory inputs as part of its phenotype. The neurobiological basis for altered sensory processing is not well understood. The UC Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute Autism Phenome Project is a longitudinal, multidisciplinary study of young children with ASD and age-matched typically developing (TD) controls. Previous analyses of the magnetic resonance imaging data from this cohort have shown that ∼15% of boys with ASD have disproportionate megalencephaly (DM) or brain size to height ratio, that is 1.5 standard deviations above the TD mean. Here, we investigated electrophysiological responses to auditory stimuli of increasing intensity (50–80 dB) in young toddlers (27–48 months old). Analyses included data from 36 age-matched boys, of which 24 were diagnosed with ASD (12 with and 12 without DM; ASD-DM and ASD-N) and 12 TD controls. We found that the two ASD subgroups differed in their electrophysiological response patterns to sounds of increasing intensity. At early latencies (55–115 ms), ASD-N does not show a loudness-dependent response like TD and ASD-DM, but tends to group intensities by soft vs. loud sounds, suggesting differences in sensory sensitivity in this group. At later latencies (145–195 ms), only the ASD-DM group shows significantly higher amplitudes for loud sounds. Because no similar effects were found in ASD-N and TD groups, this may be related to their altered neuroanatomy. These results contribute to the effort to delineate ASD subgroups and further characterize physiological responses associated with observable phenotypes. Autism Res 2019.
- auditory processing
- autism spectrum disorder
- disproportionate megalencephaly
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology