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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00395

Prediction and Mismatch negativity responses reflect impairments in action semantic processing in adults with autism spectrum disorders

  • 1Brain Language Laboratory, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 2Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
  • 3Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
  • 4Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG), Germany
  • 5Brain Language Laboratory, Department of Philosophy and Humanities , Berlin , Germany, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 6Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 7Einstein Center for Neurosciences, Germany
  • 8Charité Medical University of Berlin, Germany

The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying motor and language difficulties in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are still largely unclear. The present work investigates biological indicators of sound processing, (action-) semantic understanding and predictive coding and their correlation with clinical symptoms of ASD. Twenty-two adults with high-functioning ASD and 25 typically developed participants engaged in an auditory, passive listening, Mismatch Negativity (MMN) task while high-density EEG was recorded. Action and non-action words were presented in the context of sounds, which were either semantically congruent with regard to the body part they relate to or semantically incongruent or unrelated.
The anticipatory activity before sound onset, the Prediction Potential (PP), was significantly reduced in the ASD group specifically for action, but not for non-action sounds. The early-MMN-like responses to words (latency: 120ms) was differentially modulated across groups: Controls showed larger amplitudes for words in action-sound compared to non-action contexts, whereas ASD participants demonstrated enlarged early-MMN-like responses only in a pure tone context, with no other modulation dependent on action sound context. Late-MMN-like responses around 560 ms post stimulus onset revealed body-part-congruent action-semantic priming for words in control participants, but not in the ASD group. Importantly, neurophysiological indices of semantic priming in ASD participants correlated with the extent of autistic traits as revealed by the Autism Spectrum Quotient.
The data suggest that high-functioning adults with ASD show a specific deficit in semantic processing and predictive coding of sounds and words related to action, which is absent for neutral, non-action, sounds.

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Prediction Potential (PP), mismatch negativity (MMN), grounded cognition, Event-related potentials

Received: 15 May 2019; Accepted: 22 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Grisoni, Moseley, Motlagh, Kandia, Sener, Pulvermüller, Roepke and Mohr. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Luigi Grisoni, Freie Universität Berlin, Brain Language Laboratory, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Berlin, Germany,