Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.
Neural correlates of verbal and nonverbal semantic integration in children with autism spectrum disorders
Article first published online: 11 DEC 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 51, Issue 3, pages 277–286, March 2010
How to Cite
McCleery, J. P., Ceponiene, R., Burner, K. M., Townsend, J., Kinnear, M. and Schreibman, L. (2010), Neural correlates of verbal and nonverbal semantic integration in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51: 277–286. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02157.x
- Issue published online: 1 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 11 DEC 2009
- Manuscript accepted 22 June 2009
- Event-related potentials;
- environmental sounds
Background: Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social-emotional, social-communicative, and language skills. Behavioral and neuroimaging studies have found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) evidence abnormalities in semantic processing, with particular difficulties in verbal comprehension. However, it is not known whether these semantic deficits are confined to the verbal domain or represent a more general problem with semantic processing. The focus of the current study was to investigate verbal and meaningful nonverbal semantic processing in high-functioning children with autism (mean age = 5.8 years) using event-related potentials (ERPs).
Method: ERPs were recorded while children attended to semantically matching and mismatching picture–word and picture–environmental sound pairs.
Results: ERPs of typically developing children exhibited evidence of semantic incongruency detection in both the word and environmental sound conditions, as indexed by elicitation of an N400 effect. In contrast, children with ASD showed an N400 effect in the environmental sound condition but not in the word condition.
Conclusions: These results provide evidence for a deficiency in the automatic activation of semantic representations in children with ASD, and suggest that this deficit is somewhat more selective to, or more severe in, the verbal than the nonverbal domain.