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Dev Sci. 2015 Jan;18(1):90-105. doi: 10.1111/desc.12188. Epub 2014 May 13.

Electrophysiological evidence of heterogeneity in visual statistical learning in young children with ASD.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute of Biobehavioral Sciences, USA.


Statistical learning is characterized by detection of regularities in one's environment without an awareness or intention to learn, and it may play a critical role in language and social behavior. Accordingly, in this study we investigated the electrophysiological correlates of visual statistical learning in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using an event-related potential shape learning paradigm, and we examined the relation between visual statistical learning and cognitive function. Compared to typically developing (TD) controls, the ASD group as a whole showed reduced evidence of learning as defined by N1 (early visual discrimination) and P300 (attention to novelty) components. Upon further analysis, in the ASD group there was a positive correlation between N1 amplitude difference and non-verbal IQ, and a positive correlation between P300 amplitude difference and adaptive social function. Children with ASD and a high non-verbal IQ and high adaptive social function demonstrated a distinctive pattern of learning. This is the first study to identify electrophysiological markers of visual statistical learning in children with ASD. Through this work we have demonstrated heterogeneity in statistical learning in ASD that maps onto non-verbal cognition and adaptive social function.

© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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