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Rebecca Kate Reed
tel: (718) 862-1825
Among the most debilitating symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are deficits in communication skills. These can dramatically affect socialization and learning. Multisensory integration is something that seems effortless because it happens at a level below our awareness. When a person speaks in a noisy environment, auditory and visual information is gathered and utilized by the listener to decode the message. The resulting improvement in intelligibility is often dramatic. This processing of speech inputs is crucial for effective communication. Appropriate development of this capacity has a major impact on the ability to successfully navigate educational and social settings. Multisensory integration is a learned behavior, not in the sense of learning to tie one’s shoes or learning the ABC’s, but in the sense that the neural pathways of the brain must “learn” to integrate information across the senses. It has been theorized that multisensory pathways in the brain might not be properly developed in ASD. These pathways are likely to be long-range in that they connect specialized sensory regions that are distant from each other (such as auditory cortex and visual cortex) and these might be specifically affected in ASD. We have demonstrated severe deficits in multisensory speech perception in children with ASD. These deficits indicate a breakdown in long-range multisensory pathways. My work will clarify the integrity of the cortical networks involved in multisensory integration and perception in children with ASD and typically developing children. Three neuroimaging methods will be used, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), and event related potentials (ERP). This integrative multi-methodological approach will provide complementary evidence of the same sets of neurons used in multisensory speech processing.
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