MEG Investigation of Phonological Processing in Autism
Wilson, Lisa B.
University of Colorado, Denver
Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellowship
Deficits involving phonology, the sound system of language, are seen in a large subset of individuals with autism. There is also behavioral evidence for phonological processing deficits in the unaffected first-degree relatives of individuals with autism. Despite this, no neuroimaging studies, which enable a direct examination of brain structure and function, have investigated phonological processing in autism. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the fellow will investigate the temporal dynamics and spatial localization of phonological processing in parents of children with autism and in adults with autism. In addition, several behavioral measures of phonological processing will be collected. Given the importance of language deficits in the symptomatology and clinical outcome of children with autism, the proposed work focuses on understanding impairments in structural levels of language processing that can diminish or even preclude subsequent language development. By examining the brain mechanisms underlying phonological processing in parents of children with autism and in adults with autism, the aim of this research is to identify a neurophysiological biomarker of the language deficits seen in autism. A biomarker of structural language deficits could be used to guide and strengthen future genetic studies of autism. It would also allow for subgroup identification to aid clinical interventions.