Can Spectro-Temporal Complexity Explain the Autistic Pattern of Performance on Auditory Tasks?

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To test the hypothesis that level of neural complexity explain the relative level of performance and brain activity in autistic individuals, available behavioural, ERP and imaging findings related to the perception of increasingly complex auditory material under various processing tasks in autism were reviewed. Tasks involving simple material (pure tones) and/or low-level operations (detection, labelling, chord disembedding, detection of pitch changes) show a superior level of performance and shorter ERP latencies. In contrast, tasks involving spectrally- and temporally-dynamic material and/or complex operations (evaluation, attention) are poorly performed by autistics, or generate inferior ERP activity or brain activation. Neural complexity required to perform auditory tasks may therefore explain pattern of performance and activation of autistic individuals during auditory tasks.

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