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Atypical Cry Acoustics in 6-Month-Old Infants at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Authors

  • Stephen J. Sheinkopf,

    Corresponding author
    • Departments of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and Pediatrics, Center for the Study of Children at Risk, Brown Alpert Medical School, Women & Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island
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  • Jana M. Iverson,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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  • Melissa L. Rinaldi,

    1. Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Brown Alpert Medical School, E. P. Bradley Hospital, East Providence, Rhode Island
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  • Barry M. Lester

    1. Departments of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and Pediatrics, Center for the Study of Children at Risk, Brown Alpert Medical School, Women & Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island
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  • This study was supported by Autism Speaks and by NICHD; R01-HD41677, R01-HD54979, and NIDCD; R03-DC009301.

Address for correspondence and reprints: Stephen J. Sheinkopf, Brown Center for Children, Women & Infants Hospital, 101 Dudley Street, Providence, RI 02905. E-mail: Stephen_Sheinkopf@brown.edu

Abstract

This study examined differences in acoustic characteristics of infant cries in a sample of babies at risk for autism and a low-risk comparison group. Cry samples derived from vocal recordings of 6-month-old infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n = 21) and low-risk infants (n = 18) were subjected to acoustic analyses using analysis software designed for this purpose. Cries were categorized as either pain-related or non-pain-related based on videotape coding. At-risk infants produced pain-related cries with higher and more variable fundamental frequency (F 0) than low-risk infants. At-risk infants later classified with ASD at 36 months had among the highest F 0 values for both types of cries and produced cries that were more poorly phonated than those of nonautistic infants, reflecting cries that were less likely to be produced in a voiced mode. These results provide preliminary evidence that disruptions in cry acoustics may be part of an atypical vocal signature of autism in early life. Autism Res 2012, ••: ••–••. © 2012 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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