Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) commonly display speech processing abnormalities. Binding of acoustic features of speech distributed across different frequencies into coherent speech objects is fundamental in speech perception. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the cortical processing of bottom-up acoustic cues for speech binding may be anomalous in ASD. We recorded magnetoencephalography while ASD children (ages 7–17) and typically developing peers heard sentences of sine-wave speech (SWS) and modulated SWS (MSS) where binding cues were restored through increased temporal coherence of the acoustic components and the introduction of harmonicity. The ASD group showed increased long-range feedforward functional connectivity from left auditory to parietal cortex with concurrent decreased local functional connectivity within the parietal region during MSS relative to SWS. As the parietal region has been implicated in auditory object binding, our findings support our hypothesis of atypical bottom-up speech binding in ASD. Furthermore, the long-range functional connectivity correlated with behaviorally measured auditory processing abnormalities, confirming the relevance of these atypical cortical signatures to the ASD phenotype. Lastly, the group difference in the local functional connectivity was driven by the youngest participants, suggesting that impaired speech binding in ASD might be ameliorated upon entering adolescence.


Alho, J., Khan, S., Mamashli, F. Perrachione, T.K., Losh, A. McGuiggan, N., Graham, S., Nayal, Z., Joseph, R.M., Hämäläinen, M.S., Bharadwaj, H., & Kenet, T. (2023). Atypical cortical processing of bottom-up speech binding cues in children with autism spectrum disorders. NeuroImage: Clinical, 37, 103336.

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