Abnormalities in auditory and language processing may be evaluated in children with autism spectrum disorder by using magnetoencephalography (MEG), according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
“Using MEG, we can record the tiny magnetic fields associated with electrical brain activity,” said Timothy Roberts, Ph.D., vice chair of research in the Department of Radiology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Recorded brain waves change with every sensation, thought and activity. It’s like watching a movie of the brain in real time.”
The findings showed that in the children with autism there was a fraction of a second delay in the brain’s response while processing the rapid succession sounds and the unusual streams, giving researchers an insight into the dysfunction of the auditory processing system in autistic children.
“This delay in processing certain types and streams of sound may underpin the subsequent language processing and communication impairment seen in autistic children,” Dr. Roberts said.
Unique brain wave patterns, spotted for the first time in autistic children, may help explain why they have so much trouble communicating.
Using an imaging helmet that resembles a big salon hair dryer, researchers discovered what they believe are “signatures of autism” that show a delay in processing individual sounds.
That delay is only a fraction of a second, but when it’s for every sound, the lag time can cascade into a major obstacle in speaking and understanding people, the researchers said.
Imagine if it took a tiny bit longer than normal to understand each syllable. By the end of a whole sentence, you’d be pretty confused.
In autistic children, response to each sound was delayed by one-fiftieth of a second.
“We tend to speak at four syllables per second,” said Timothy Roberts, the study’s lead author and the hospital’s vice chairman of research. If an autistic brain “is slow in processing a change in a syllable . . . it could easily get to the point of being overloaded.”
Very interesting. I want one of those!