Distinct Autistic Traits Are Differentially Associated With the Width of the Multisensory Temporal Binding Window

in Multisensory Research
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and interaction, and restricted interests and behavior patterns. These characteristics are considered as a continuous distribution in the general population. People with ASD show atypical temporal processing in multisensory integration. Regarding the flash–beep illusion, which refers to how a single flash can be illusorily perceived as multiple flashes when multiple auditory beeps are concurrently presented, some studies reported that people with ASD have a wider temporal binding window and greater integration than typically developed people; others found the opposite or inconsistent tendencies. Here, we investigated the relationships between the manner of the flash–beep illusion and the various dimensions of ASD traits by estimating the degree of typically developed participants’ ASD traits including five subscales using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient. We found that stronger ASD traits of communication and social skill were associated with a wider and narrower temporal binding window respectively. These results suggest that specific ASD traits are differently involved in the particular temporal binding processes of audiovisual integration.

Multisensory Research

A Journal of Scientific Research on All Aspects of Multisensory Processing



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  • Schematic illustrations of the experimental design in the illusory condition where two beeps were presented with one flash. The onset of the flash was concurrent with that of one of the beeps. Stimulus onset asynchrony between the beeps was ±25–500 ms. The participants were asked to report the perceived number of flashes (one or two).

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  • (A) The participants’ total AQ scores. The horizontal axis denotes the total AQ score. The scores were calculated using Likert scoring, and ranged from 0 to 150. The vertical axis denotes the number of participants (N=65). (B) Psychometric function of the percentage of trials in which two flashes were reported against stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA) in the illusory condition. The horizontal axis denotes the SOA between stimuli (±25–500 ms). A negative SOA denotes that one of the beeps was presented first. The vertical axis denotes the mean number of trials in which two flashes are reported. Error bars denote the standard error of the mean (N=65). We estimated the SD and peak value of the function as indices of the width of the temporal binding window and of the maximum probability of the illusion, respectively.

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  • Scatterplots between (A) the standard deviation (SD) and communication subscale score (β=0.44) and (B) SD and social skill subscale score (β=0.40). The horizontal axis denotes the AQ subscale score, and the vertical axis denotes the width of the temporal binding window. Multiple regression analyses revealed significant relationships regarding these results (p<0.05).

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  • The mean percentage of trials in which two flashes were reported in the control condition. The horizontal axis indicates the five control conditions: one flash with zero (1F/0B) or one beep (1F/1B) and two flashes with zero (2F/0B), one (2F/1B), or two beeps (2F/2B). The vertical axis denotes the averaged proportion of reporting two flashes. Error bars denote the standard error of the mean. There was a significant difference among the conditions except for the comparison between 1F/0B and 2F/1B conditions (p<0.05).

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