home
RSS
Vision, sound don't sync for some kids with autism, study suggests
January 14th, 2014
05:11 PM ET

Vision, sound don't sync for some kids with autism, study suggests

Watching a TV show where the words coming out of the actor's mouth are not synched with his lips can be very distracting.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, in a study published Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience, suggest this is something some children with autism experience all the time, because they cannot simultaneously process what their eyes are seeing and their ears are hearing.

People with an autism spectrum disorder can have significant communication difficulties and exhibit repetitive patterns of behavior and social challenges. The American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the bible of all diagnostic criteria of mental disorders, says people with autism spectrum disorder "have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations" (among other symptoms). Their new DSM 5 criteria fold symptoms of the disorders into two broad categories: Impaired social communication and restricted or repetitive patterns and behaviors.

The study
Researchers wanted to know how well children with autism process what they hear and see. They studied 32 high-functioning children with autism and 32 typically developing children, who were similar in almost every way including IQ (with the exception of the autism). All were between the ages of 6 and 18.
The children sat in front of a video screen and were listening for and looking for simple stimuli like beeps and flashes and more complex stimuli, like a hammer hitting a nail or verbal cues. The study participants were asked to press buttons when the visual and audible stimuli were happening at the same time.

The results
Children with autism had a longer window of time within which they combined sights and sounds, says lead study author Mark Wallace, director of Vanderbilt's University's Brain Institute. It took about twice as long for them to connect the dots, compared to typically developing children.

"If you drop a pen in front of me, the visual and auditory signals are happening at the same approximate time," explains Wallace. But in children with autism, it takes about twice as long for both of these signals to connect. "There's a longer window of time within which they are binding sights and sounds."

So one can imagine that if a typically developing child and a child with autism are listening to the same person speaking to them at the same time, they are not both getting the same message because the child with autism is taking longer to make the connections. That could contribute to language problems.

The study suggests that "impairments in low-level temporal sensory processing of audio and visual signals could play a role in speech perception in children with ASD."

"If we think about language and social interactions, they are completely dependent on senses communicating," says Wallace.

However, limited previous research has not been conclusive, says Marlene Behrmann, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the research. She says one earlier study suggests that visual and hearing signals sync up when children reach adolescence.

Caveats

"This is a good article," says Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and autism expert at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, who also was not involved in the research. But he suggests the study would reveal more if researchers had included a group of children with developmental language disorders, in addition to the typically developed children and those with autism. This would help researchers understand if the sensory problems are due to autism or a co-existing developmental language disorder.

Wiznitzer suggests that "a conservative interpretation of this study is, that the identified dysfunction can aggravate the core features of autism by having the potential to worsen communication ability." He adds that a lot more research needs to be done to show if not being able to properly connect audio and visual cues just aggravates language problems in children with autism, or if this problem of processing multiple senses at the time is a "is a contributing factor to the core deficits of autism."

Takeaway

Behrmann is excited about this research because she believes, if validated, it suggests the earlier in development children with autism receive therapy, the better they can sync up sights and sounds. That it might provide a "chance of off-setting some of the more complex behaviors later in life," she says.

That's one of the areas Wallace aims to explore. "Can we train these children to do better in binding sights and sounds? Can we (then) improve their language and social skills?" His ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life of children with autism.

What also needs to be studied, says Wiznitzer, is if interventions to retrain the brain to more quickly bridge the gap between what is heard and said will impact the autism in a positive way.

Dr. Michael Morrier, assistant director of the Emory Autism Center in Atlanta, suggests that contrary to popular belief that children with autism are "visual" learners, this study shows some children with autism are auditory learners, which in turn provides another clue as to how to help children with autism.


soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Brad

    Delay between input and proper responses to the point where the person is always reacting inappropriately to situations? Sounds like me after a few beers.

    January 14, 2014 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Todd

      This could explain behavior problems.
      Growing up there is a lot of verbal and non-verbal input. When a child does something wrong, they will often get both messages at the same time, both reinforcing each other. If they are delayed, it makes it harder to catch on these queue as they are not always consistent.
      a child without autism, may begin to act up, and a quick stare by their parents, would be enough to get them to settle down. However if you don't connect that stare with disapproval it could just escalate the situation.

      January 15, 2014 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • pieripujzxbxzb

      Black Men Dating White Women,White men Seeking Black Women on
      ------ BlackMenDatingWhiteWomen.o/r/g----. Thousands of Black Men, Black Women, White Men and White Women Free Join Here Everyday.Here a 100% safe, serious and real community for black & white single seeking interracial relationships, friendships, dating ,love and more. The site has established 12+ years. Millions of singles have joined it.bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbxcb

      January 16, 2014 at 22:14 | Report abuse |
  2. patriciaange

    Reblogged this on Sex and Relationships.

    January 14, 2014 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mrsmontanez

    Reblogged this on Bipolar Mom, Authoress.

    January 14, 2014 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. John

    As a person who suffers from this issue, it isn't that the sound and sight don't sink, it's that it takes more brain processing power to do both tasks at once. So if I'm watching a person's face while they talk, I have a hard time tracking what they are saying. If I shut my eyes, I have an easier time hearing what they are saying, or if I stop listening I have an easier time tracking their facial expressions. That is a totally different experience than watching a show on TV, or the computer, where the sound doesn't sync to the action.

    What I personally think is happening is in normal people there's a fair amount of "back ground" processing that goes on in social interactions and spacial tracking that they are not actively aware of. So there's a background process that's watching the talker's face and adding emotional overlay to the words that the listener is actively hearing. He's aware that he is listening, but he isn't aware that the angry face is making the tone of voice he's hearing sound angry. There might be another "back ground" process that tracks body orientation and position, so when a person raises his hand and extends it, the person is automatically told, the guy wants to shake hands.

    Some people don't have this capability so they have to actively track everything at once. It isn't that your brain doesn't become aware of the two events at a different time as someone else, it's that you have to actively think about both actions. Because of this, it takes you longer to respond, and it makes sense to me that it takes twice as long, because people don't really parallel process things they are actively thinking about, they think about stuff serially. You could test this hypothesis by presenting a test where the person had to track three things at once to draw a conclusion and seeing what the timing different is.

    I also think there's a limit to how many things you can actively track. For instance, if I'm talking to a person and watching their face, if they raise their hand to shake mine, I miss it.

    January 14, 2014 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charontheferryman

      Yeah I'm the same way. I look at other things because they don't move and facial expressions are very distracting. I tend to focus on one thing because if I don't it gets very overwhelming...

      January 14, 2014 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
    • Randall Ulrich

      I find, as I watch TV, that I can follow facial expressions, or I can track speech. I often deal with the "either/or" scenario of trying to track two different channels of information or input.

      However, I turn on closed captioning while watching TV. This way, I can track the audio; but if I start to track facial expressions or other visual input, because the of the lag time inherent with closed captioning, I can always "catch up" on any audio input I might have missed. Since closed captioning is visual, not auditory, the visual input is processed a lot faster than the auditory input.

      Maybe future studies can follow this format to see if tracking multiple channels of information help those with disorder "connect the dots" or make sense of their environment any easier.

      January 14, 2014 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
    • teacher

      that makes sense John. It also makes me understand why my students with HFA can process my conversation much better by looking away when I work one to one with him.

      January 14, 2014 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
    • Elle

      I also turn on the closed captioning when watching tv. I have a hearing loss in one ear. My sister turns to tv way up for me, becasue she hates the closed captioning. It doesn't help. I simply can't follow without the CC.

      January 14, 2014 at 23:19 | Report abuse |
  5. jacob

    that was kinda obvious

    January 14, 2014 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. sandiegowatch

    So many vaccinations giving throughout your life...then to your newborn over 20 within the first couple years......countless artificial ingredients you digest could impact your reproduction system....etc.....

    .....I'm not saying not to get vaccinated but look into alternative scheduling...and try to maintain a healthy diet.

    There is NO PROOF all this exposure to the human body IS NOT causing some newborns/children to develop autism.

    January 14, 2014 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Observer

      That is completely twisted, and dangerous logic. There is not ONE study that can show that vaccines contribute to autism, no matter what Jenny McCarthy might say. But do you know what they DO know? If you don't get they measles vaccine, you are at a much elevated risk to get measles. If you don't get the mumps vaccine, you have a much elevated risk of getting mumps. If you don't get the polio vaccine, you are contributing to the reintroduction of polio into our society. It is very errant reasoning to say that there is "NO PROOF all this exposure to the human body IS NOT causing some newborns/children to develop autism" Science doesn't work this way. You don't prove that something DOESN'T cause a condition. You would have to prove that everything in the universe DIDN'T cause the studied condition.

      January 14, 2014 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
    • TheSocal

      @sandiegowatch
      There is no proof that shows that Little Green men aren't currently in the white house, either. Do you, because of that, think that there are little green men in the white house?

      January 14, 2014 at 18:55 | Report abuse |
    • Cather Steincamp

      @Observer– ACtually there was one study that suggested it. And the science involved could best be described as "Wishful." The doctor who ran the study was disgraced.

      @TheSocal– ARE YOU TRYING TO START RUMOURS? This guy is clearly highly suggestible.

      January 14, 2014 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
    • Taxmom

      As a mother of a child with Autism, that is rubbish. My son was always, always different. I have four children, he is my third. I didn't know WHAT was different about him, but I knew that he WAS different. It didn't start with him getting immunizations, it was always there. From day one.

      January 14, 2014 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      To Cather Steincamp,
      Yes, I am aware of the study you mention, and how the scientist was disgraced because of some very questionable science. That's why I didn't include it when I said that no legitimate study shows a connection. However, many still cling to the results of that study and just can't give up on its conclusion. Because the onset of many of the characteristic behaviors of autism coincide with the age that they receive many of their vaccinations, they are certain that they must be related, but so far it just can't be shown. I understand all too well the desperation with which some people search for answers when there don't appear to be any, but you can't let it make you ignore the preponderance of the evidence.

      January 14, 2014 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      There's plenty of proof: the millions and millions of children who are not adversely affected by vaccines in any way, shape or form.

      January 14, 2014 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      From an article in Quackwatch, posted for sandiegowatch: The currently recommended schedule—posted at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site calls for 5 live or weakened organisms and 21 different antigens by age 6. A few more are added from ages 7 to 18. The goal is to protect children as early as possible from diseases that are very dangerous to young children.

      The capacity of the immune system to respond to antigens is vast and far greater than most people realize. Experts estimate that humans can generate about 10 billion different antibodies [3] and that, due to exposures to germs and other foreign material, people make between 1 million and 100 million different antibodies during our lifetime [4]. The vaccine schedule produces a total of about 30 antibodies. It is also estimated that (a) each infant has the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time and (b) if the 11 routinely recommended vaccines were administered together, the immune system would need to use only about 0.1% of its capacity to process them [5].

      January 15, 2014 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      the one and ONLY study linking autism to vaccinations was quite thoroughly debunked when the author was found to have FAKED the data! Stop spreading these dangerous falsehoods!

      January 15, 2014 at 22:05 | Report abuse |
  7. drtwewerterqwerw1234123

    OBAMA NARCOTRAFIC DEALER BUSINESS WITH VENEZUELA.

    US ARMY JETS TRIPING HEROINE.

    FDA CHOCOLATES EXPORTED SNIKERS.

    QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

    January 14, 2014 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. drtwewtyeyerterqwerw1234123

    Cupo Cadivi.
    QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

    January 14, 2014 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. drtwewtyeyerterqwerw1234123

    George W. Bush – Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

    New Haven, Connecticut, Estados Unidos, 6 de julio de 1946), conocido como George W. Bush o simplemente George Bush, fue el cuadragésimo tercer.......

    rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrPGIORG.BLOG.COMrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    January 14, 2014 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. amdachel

    This study treats autism as medical curiosity that we have all the time in the world to figure out. Meanwhile in the real world, one in every 88 or one in every 50 U.S. children has autism, depending on which study from the CDC you source.

    Incredibly, no one is worried. No one is worried that the rate for autism is always based on studies of children. No one is worried that experts have not been able to find adults with the same rate of autism that we see in our kids. No one is worried that a once rare disorder is now so common that everyone knows someone with an affected child. No one is worried that officials still can't tell us the cause or cure for autism. And no one is worried about the future when a million autistic children age out of school and are dependent on the taxpayers for their support and care.

    Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

    January 14, 2014 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Who says that "no one is worried"? Where do you get this idea? Of course there's concern and of course there is research being done as to why autism occurs.

      January 14, 2014 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
    • ur mum

      The reason why we don't see identical diagnosis in adults is that previously those within the autisum spectrum we just considered weird, slow, or mentaly retarded. It's sort of like the huge 'rise' of cancer, it was still there just misunderstood.

      January 15, 2014 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
  11. amdachel

    I can tell you the research that countless thousands of parent of autistic children would love to see. Where is a simple comparison study of fully-vaccinated and never-vaccinated children to see if never-vaccinated kids have the same autism rate as the general population? Parents have asked for this for years. Officials have refused, even though they do retrospective studies like this all the time. No one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to see this study done. We all should be asking why not.

    Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

    January 14, 2014 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Observer

      Could you please cite some legitimate sources or provide some evidence that shows the CDC doesn't want this research done?

      January 14, 2014 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      More of the same nonsense from the anti-vax conspiracy nuts. Get a clue: there is NO evidence that autism is caused by vaccines. NONE.

      January 14, 2014 at 20:51 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Don't hold your breath, Observer. There won't be any response from her.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • peks0556

      The only way to conduct a study that you suggest would have to be a double blind study. That would be highly unethical because it would be subjecting children to saline vaccines to test your ridiculous theory. As someone previous said, this isn't how one conducts scientific reserach. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines save millions of lives. Autism is a very interesting medical condition that requires extensive reserach to fully understand and to develop treatment options that work for those who are dealing with the condition. By continuing to propogate the ridiculous notion that vaccines cause autism you are party to the hundreds of deaths due to preventable childhood diseases that exist in our society. There is no earlthly reason why one shouldn't vaccinate their kids. I believe not vaccinating is akin to child neglect as you are setting your child up for potentially life threatening illnesses unnecessarily.
      I also have yet to met an autisitic individual who believes your ridiculous notion. I understand parents want something to blame for their childs condition, but puting other children at risk by using the idea that vaccines cause autism isn't a good way to make yourself feel better.

      January 17, 2014 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • ryan

      Here: http://www.pkids.org/files/pdf/AMJPRMED.pdf

      And Here: http://www.miottawa.org/Health/OCHD/pdf/2007_Nature_DeStefano_Vaccines_and_Autism.pdf

      And here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/112/3/604.abstract

      Need I go on? And furthermore, show one scientific article that compared large numbers of these groups that showed a connection.

      January 17, 2014 at 22:04 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      It won't faze these nuts, no matter what evidence anyone cites. Crazies, every single one of them.

      January 17, 2014 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
  12. mary

    Taxmom, and when do babies get their first vaccinations? Day 1 as an infant. Who thinks that giving a brand new baby with decreased immunity a vaccination is a good idea? Lets pump this brand new baby full of aluminum and formaldehyde.

    January 15, 2014 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      Instead of posting such inane drivel, why don't you do some actual research? There is NO research that you can cite that shows that vaccines are harmful. The amounts of substances that you rave about are so small that one is exposed to more simply by eating and breathing. The silliness of your statement boggles the mind of anyone who understands the role of vaccines: the fact that diseases can kill infants doesn't seem to faze you. Vaccines cause the immune system to develop antibodies that PREVENT said diseases. Why don't you know this?

      January 15, 2014 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
  13. beneficii

    Interesting, as this suggests that there are problems with multisensory integration in autism. A similar issue is currently being studied as part of the core process of schizophrenia, the Perceptual Incoherence Hypothesis of Schizophrenia as detailed in this article:

    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/parklab/Hur%20et%20al%202013.pdf

    Park, S.,Nasrallah, H.A., The varieties of anomalous self experiences in schizophrenia: Splitting of the mind at a crossroad,
    Schizophr. Res. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2013.11.036

    Basically, the problems of multisensory integration in schizophrenia lead to the self-disorders that lead eventually to both the positive and negative symptoms, as has been studied in phenomenology.

    It appears that autism and schizophrenia may actually share some underlying features.

    January 16, 2014 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. None Of Your Buisness!!!!!!!!!

    He doesn't understand with this thing OMG really guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG U GUYS ARE RETARDS!!!!!!!!!

    February 4, 2014 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.