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Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 1;70(3):263-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.01.015. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

Auditory magnetic mismatch field latency: a biomarker for language impairment in autism.

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  • 1Lurie Family Foundations' MEG Imaging Center, Department of Radiology, 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Auditory processing abnormalities are frequently observed in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and these abnormalities may have sequelae in terms of clinical language impairment (LI). The present study assessed associations between language impairment and the amplitude and latency of the superior temporal gyrus magnetic mismatch field (MMF) in response to changes in an auditory stream of tones or vowels.


Fifty-one children with ASD, and 27 neurotypical control subjects, all aged 6 to 15 years, underwent neuropsychological evaluation, including tests of language function, as well as magnetoencephalographic recording during presentation of tones and vowels. The MMF was identified in the difference waveform obtained from subtraction of responses to standard from deviant stimuli.


Magnetic mismatch field latency was significantly prolonged (p < .001) in children with ASD, compared with neurotypical control subjects. Furthermore, this delay was most pronounced (∼50 msec) in children with concomitant LI, with significant differences in latency between children with ASD with LI and those without (p < .01). Receiver operator characteristic analysis indicated a sensitivity of 82.4% and specificity of 71.2% for diagnosing LI based on MMF latency.


Neural correlates of auditory change detection (the MMF) are significantly delayed in children with ASD, and especially those with concomitant LI, suggesting a neurobiological basis as well as a clinical biomarker for LI in ASD.

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