The integration of prosodic speech in high functioning autism: a preliminary FMRI study.

Isabelle Hesling, Bixente Dilharreguy, Sue Peppé, Marion Amirault, Manuel Bouvard, Michèle Allard
PLoS ONE. 2010-07-13; 5(7): e11571
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011571

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Hesling I(1), Dilharreguy B, Peppé S, Amirault M, Bouvard M, Allard M.

Author information:
(1)UMR-CNRS 5231, Laboratoire d’Imagerie Moléculaire et Fonctionnelle,
Université Victor Segalen, Bordeaux, France.

BACKGROUND: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a specific
triad of symptoms such as abnormalities in social interaction, abnormalities in
communication and restricted activities and interests. While verbal autistic
subjects may present a correct mastery of the formal aspects of speech, they
have difficulties in prosody (music of speech), leading to communication
disorders. Few behavioural studies have revealed a prosodic impairment in
children with autism, and among the few fMRI studies aiming at assessing the
neural network involved in language, none has specifically studied prosodic
speech. The aim of the present study was to characterize specific prosodic
components such as linguistic prosody (intonation, rhythm and emphasis) and
emotional prosody and to correlate them with the neural network underlying them.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We used a behavioural test (Profiling Elements
of the Prosodic System, PEPS) and fMRI to characterize prosodic deficits and
investigate the neural network underlying prosodic processing. Results revealed
the existence of a link between perceptive and productive prosodic deficits for
some prosodic components (rhythm, emphasis and affect) in HFA and also revealed
that the neural network involved in prosodic speech perception exhibits abnormal
activation in the left SMG as compared to controls (activation positively
correlated with intonation and emphasis) and an absence of deactivation patterns
in regions involved in the default mode.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These prosodic impairments could not only result from
activation patterns abnormalities but also from an inability to adequately use
the strategy of the default network inhibition, both mechanisms that have to be
considered for decreasing task performance in High Functioning Autism.

Conflict of interest statement: Competing Interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.

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