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Poster B16, Thursday, August 16, 3:05 – 4:50 pm, Room 2000AB

The relation between speech-in-noise and vocal pitch recognition abilities in high-functioning autism spectrum disorder

Stefanie Schelinski1,2, Katharina von Kriegstein1,2;1Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, 2Technical University of Dresden

The ability to recognise auditory speech in a noisy environment is critical for successful communication in everyday situations. There is evidence that in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), speech perception is reduced under noisy conditions [1,2]. Currently it is unclear, whether difficulties in speech-in-noise perception are associated with difficulties in perceiving basic acoustic features of voices that are relevant for speech-in-noise perception. A key acoustic feature for speech-in-noise perception is the fundamental frequency which is perceived as vocal pitch [3]. Here, we investigated speech-in-noise recognition abilities and its relation to vocal pitch perception abilities in a group of adults with high-functioning ASD (n = 16) and typically developing individuals (n = 16; matched pairwise on age, gender, and intelligence quotient). The ASD group has been previously shown to have difficulties in vocal pitch perception but intact non-vocal pitch perception abilities [4]. In the speech-in-noise recognition test, we investigated the individual thresholds for speech recognition when speech was presented with different levels of speech-shaped noise. The ASD group showed significantly higher thresholds as compared to the control group, i.e. typically developing individuals understood speech in higher noise levels. Within the control group, performance in the speech-in-noise recognition test correlated with performance in vocal pitch, but not non-vocal pitch perception. Within the ASD group, there were no correlations between speech-in-noise recognition and vocal or non-vocal pitch perception abilities. This indicated that in controls better speech-in-noise recognition abilities were associated with better vocal pitch perception, but not in the ASD group. Our results suggest that perceptual impairments, i.e. difficulties in vocal pitch perception might contribute to speech-in-noise recognition difficulties in ASD. In line with our previous results on vocal emotion recognition this implies that communication difficulties in ASD might not only be based on higher-level cognitive difficulties, but also on impaired basic perceptual processing. References [1] Alcantara, Weisblatt, Moore, & Bolton (2004). Speech-in-noise perception in high-functioning individuals with autism or Asperger's syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(6), 1107-1114. [2] Groen, van Orsouw, Zwiers, Swinkels, van der Gaag, & Buitelaar (2008). Gender in voice perception in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(10), 1819-1826. [3] Anderson, & Kraus (2010). Sensory-cognitive interaction in the neural encoding of speech in noise: a review. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 21(9), 575-585. [4] Schelinski, Roswandowitz, & von Kriegstein (2017). Voice identity processing in autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 10(1), 155-168.

Topic Area: Perception: Auditory