Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurodev Disord. 2017 Apr 5;9:13. doi: 10.1186/s11689-017-9194-9. eCollection 2017.

Atypical sound discrimination in children with ASD as indicated by cortical ERPs.

Author information

Brain Dynamics and Cognition Team, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center; CRNL, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, University of Lyon 1, Lyon, France.
UMR Inserm U930, Université François Rabelais de Tours, Tours, France.
CHRU de Tours, Service de Pédopsychiatrie, Tours, France.
Contributed equally



Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show a relative indifference to the human voice. Accordingly, and contrarily to their typically developed peers, adults with autism do not show a preferential response to voices in the superior temporal sulcus; this lack of voice-specific response was previously linked to atypical processing of voices. In electroencephalography, a slow event-related potential (ERP) called the fronto-temporal positivity to voice (FTPV) is larger for vocal than for non-vocal sounds, resulting in a voice-sensitive response over right fronto-temporal sites. Here, we investigated the neurophysiological correlates of voice perception in children with and without ASD.


Sixteen children with autism and 16 age-matched typically developing children heard vocal (speech and non-speech) and non-vocal sounds while their electroencephalographic activity was recorded; overall IQ was smaller in the group of children with ASD. ERP amplitudes were compared using non-parametric statistical tests at each electrode and in successive 20-ms time windows. Within each group, differences between conditions were assessed using a non-parametric Quade test between 0 and 400 ms post-stimulus. Inter-group comparisons of ERP amplitudes were performed using non-paired Kruskal-Wallis tests between 140 and 180 ms post-stimulus.


Typically developing children showed the classical voice-sensitive response over right fronto-temporal electrodes, for both speech and non-speech vocal sounds. Children with ASD did not show a preferential response to vocal sounds. Inter-group analysis showed no difference in the processing of vocal sounds, both speech and non-speech, but significant differences in the processing of non-vocal sounds over right fronto-temporal sites.


Our results demonstrate a lack of voice-preferential response in children with autism spectrum disorders. In contrast to observations in adults with ASD, the lack of voice-preferential response was attributed to an atypical response to non-vocal sounds, which was overall more similar to the event-related potentials evoked by vocal sounds in both groups. This result suggests atypical maturation processes in ASD impeding the specialization of temporal regions in voice processing.


Auditory; Autism; Development; FTPV; Speech; Voice

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center