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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2005 May;23(2-3):221-34. Epub 2005 Jan 11.

Auditory spatial localization and attention deficits in autistic adults.

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Department of Neurosciences 0608, School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Drive, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0608, USA.


The objective of this study was to compare autistic adults and matched control subjects in their ability to focus attention selectively on a sound source in a noisy environment. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded while subjects attended to a fast paced sequence of brief noise bursts presented in free-field at a central or peripheral location. Competing sequences of noise bursts at adjacent locations were to be ignored. Both behavioral measures of target detection and auditory ERP amplitudes indicated that control subjects were able to focus their attention more sharply on the relevant sound source than autistic subjects. These findings point to a fundamental deficit in the spatial focusing of auditory attention in autism, which may be a factor that impedes social interactions and sensory-guided behavior, particularly in noisy environments.

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