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Keywords:

  • Asperger syndrome;
  • high-functioning autism;
  • multisensory processing;
  • crossmodal priming;
  • local processing

Abstract

Individuals suffering from autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often show a tendency for detail- or feature-based perception (also referred to as “local processing bias”) instead of more holistic stimulus processing typical for unaffected people. This local processing bias has been demonstrated for the visual and auditory domains and there is evidence that multisensory processing may also be affected in ASD. Most multisensory processing paradigms used social-communicative stimuli, such as human speech or faces, probing the processing of simultaneously occuring sensory signals. Multisensory processing, however, is not limited to simultaneous stimulation. In this study, we investigated whether multisensory processing deficits in ASD persist when semantically complex but nonsocial stimuli are presented in succession. Fifteen adult individuals with Asperger syndrome and 15 control persons participated in a visual-audio priming task, which required the classification of sounds that were either primed by semantically congruent or incongruent preceding pictures of objects. As expected, performance on congruent trials was faster and more accurate compared with incongruent trials (crossmodal priming effect). The Asperger group, however, did not differ significantly from the control group. Our results do not support a general multisensory processing deficit, which is universal to the entire autism spectrum. Autism Res2011,4:383–388. © 2011 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.