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Autistic Children's Delays in Processing Sound May Persist into Adulthood, New Study Finds

The brains of children with autism experience a delay in responding to sound that may persist into adulthood, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The study, which is the first to examine this phenomenon in adults on the autism spectrum, linked the sound processing delay to language difficulties as well. While the brain of the average person produces two important neural responses 50 to 100 milliseconds after hearing a sound, the brains of people with autism respond several milliseconds later. Tim Roberts, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a lead investigator in the new study, said this seemingly minor delay could significantly damage the ability of children with autism to follow a conversation. In conducting their study, Roberts and his colleagues measured auditory responses in 132 people between 6 and 42 years old, including 58 children and adolescents with autism, and 19 adults with the condition. After analyzing the results of the adults and children with autism in separate groups, the researchers found a delay of 6 milliseconds in the 50-millisecond response, and a delay of 10 milliseconds in the 100-millisecond response in both the child and adult groups. The study’s findings were published in January in the journal Developmental Neuroscience. To test the consequences of the delay, Roberts and his team evaluated the participants verbal intelligence quotient. They found that the delay in auditory response tracks with a lower verbal IQ but does not show a relationship to overall IQ or nonverbal IQ.

Roberts believes identifying the source of the delay could help researchers find targets for treating language difficulties. “What we’re interested in is trying to characterize that and figure out what would be the most appropriate way to help that person,” he was quoted as saying in a report on the study by Spectrum News. Source: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/autistic-childrens-auditory-delays-may-persist-into-adulthood/

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