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Neuron. 2012 Sep 20;75(6):981-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.07.026.

Unreliable evoked responses in autism.

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1
Department of Psychology, Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. ilan@cns.nyu.edu

Abstract

Autism has been described as a disorder of general neural processing, but the particular processing characteristics that might be abnormal in autism have mostly remained obscure. Here, we present evidence of one such characteristic: poor evoked response reliability. We compared cortical response amplitude and reliability (consistency across trials) in visual, auditory, and somatosensory cortices of high-functioning individuals with autism and controls. Mean response amplitudes were statistically indistinguishable across groups, yet trial-by-trial response reliability was significantly weaker in autism, yielding smaller signal-to-noise ratios in all sensory systems. Response reliability differences were evident only in evoked cortical responses and not in ongoing resting-state activity. These findings reveal that abnormally unreliable cortical responses, even to elementary nonsocial sensory stimuli, may represent a fundamental physiological alteration of neural processing in autism. The results motivate a critical expansion of autism research to determine whether (and how) basic neural processing properties such as reliability, plasticity, and adaptation/habituation are altered in autism.

PMID:
22998867
PMCID:
PMC3457023
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuron.2012.07.026
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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