Pre-attentive auditory sensory processing in autistic spectrum disorder: are electromagnetic measurements telling us a coherent story?

Stefano Seri*, Francesco Pisani, Jade N. Thai, Antonella Cerquiglini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sensory processing is a crucial underpinning of the development of social cognition, a function which is compromised in variable degree in patients with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). In this manuscript, we review some of the most recent and relevant contributions, which have looked at auditory sensory processing derangement in PDD. The variability in the clinical characteristics of the samples studied so far, in terms of severity of the associated cognitive deficits and associated limited compliance, underlying aetiology and demographic features makes a univocal interpretation arduous. We hypothesise that, in patients with severe mental deficits, the presence of impaired auditory sensory memory as expressed by the mismatch negativity could be a non-specific indicator of more diffuse cortical deficits rather than causally related to the clinical symptomatology. More consistent findings seem to emerge from studies on less severely impaired patients, in whom increased pitch perception has been interpreted as an indicator of increased local processing, probably as compensatory mechanism for the lack of global processing (central coherence). This latter hypothesis seems extremely attractive and future trials in larger cohorts of patients, possibly standardising the characteristics of the stimuli are a much-needed development. Finally, specificity of the role of the auditory derangement as opposed to other sensory channels needs to be assessed more systematically using multimodal stimuli in the same patient group. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-163
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • auditory function
  • auditory sensory gating
  • developmental disorders


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