Auditory Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Review of the Literature
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Audiology
For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ‘ASD’ the ability to accurately process and interpret auditory information is often difficult. Here we review behavioural, neurophysiological and neuroimaging literature pertaining to the field of auditory processing in ASD, with the aim of providing a comprehensive account of auditory processing in this population and thus an effective tool to aid further research. Literature was sourced from peer-reviewed journals published over the last two decades which best represent research conducted in these areas. Findings show substantial evidence for atypical processing of auditory information in ASD. Behavioural studies provide support for widespread abnormalities ranging from atypical perception of various low-level perceptual features (i.e. pitch) to processing of more complex auditory information such as prosody. Magnetic resonance imaging studies have identified functional abnormalities to a range of auditory stimuli in ASD while structural abnormalities have been observed in several brain regions implicated in auditory processing. Electrophysiological research has found evidence for atypical auditory processing within the cortex and brainstem of individuals with ASD in a variety of experimental paradigms. Trends across studies suggest auditory processing impairments in ASD are more likely to present during processing of complex auditory information and are more severe for speech than for non-speech stimuli. Moreover, atypical auditory processing in ASD may not always be viewed as an impairment and in some cases may reflect the use of a compensatory strategy to make sense of auditory information. To this end, there is an urgent need for further research aimed at understanding the behavioural and neural basis of auditory processing in ASD.