The present study investigated pitch processing in Mandarin-speaking children with autism using event-related potential measures. Two experiments were designed to test how acoustic, phonetic and semantic properties of the stimuli contributed to the neural responses for pitch change detection and involuntary attentional orienting. In comparison with age-matched (6–12 years) typically developing controls (16 participants in Experiment 1, 18 in Experiment 2), children with autism (18 participants in Experiment 1, 16 in Experiment 2) showed enhanced neural discriminatory sensitivity in the nonspeech conditions but not for speech stimuli. The results indicate domain specificity of enhanced pitch processing in autism, which may interfere with lexical tone acquisition and language development for children who speak a tonal language.
- Event-related potentials (ERPs)
- Language development
- Mismatch negativity (MMN)
- Pitch processing
- Speech perception