Objectives: To evaluate the association between psychoacoustic abilities and prosodic perception in individuals with ASD, in comparison to controls from the general population.
Methods: 21 high functioning male adults with ASD and 32 male adults from the general population, matched on age and verbal abilities, and screened for normal hearing limits, undertook a battery of auditory tasks: psychoacoustic tasks, a pragmatic prosody recognition task (narrow focus recognition) and a vocal emotion recognition task. A facial emotion recognition task represented non-vocal emotion recognition abilities.
Results: Individuals with ASD scored significantly lower than controls on vocal and facial emotion recognition, but not on the pragmatic prosody recognition task or on any of the psychoacoustic tasks. Psychoacoustic abilities were strong predictors of vocal emotion recognition in both the ASD and control groups, whereas facial emotion recognition abilities were a significant predictor of vocal emotion recognition only in the ASD group. In the clinical group, psychoacoustic and facial emotion recognition abilities together explained R2=57.5% of the variance of vocal emotion recognition scores
Conclusions: Our results support previous findings of cross-modal emotion recognition difficulties in ASD. Furthermore, our findings suggest that lower level psychoacoustic factors and higher-level emotion recognition skills taken together may improve our understanding of vocal emotion recognition in ASD.
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