Pitch direction ability predicts melodic perception in autism
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) often present atypical auditory perception. Previous work has reported both enhanced low-level pitch discrimination and superior abilities to detect local pitch structure on higher-level melodic tasks in ASD. However, it is unclear how low and high levels of auditory perception are related in ASD or typical development (TD), or how this relationship might change across development and stimulus presentation rates. To these aims, in the present study, children with ASD and TD were tested on a low-level pitch direction discrimination task and a high-level melodic global-local task. Groups performed similarly on both of these auditory tasks. Moreover, individual differences in low-level pitch direction ability predicted performance on the higher-level global-local task, with a stronger relationship in ASD. Age did not affect the relationship between low-level and high-level pitch performance in either ASD or TD. However, there was a more positive effect of age on the high-level global-local task performance in TD than ASD. Finally, there was no effect of stimulus rate on the relationship between low-level and high-level pitch performance in either group. These findings provide a better understanding of how perception is associated across levels of processing in ASD versus TD. This work helps to better understand individual differences in auditory perception and to refine ASD phenotypes.
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