Quantitative analysis of expressive prosody in autism
van Santen, Jan
Oregon Health & Science University
Recent developments in speech technology make it possible to create far more precise and objective measures of speech and language ability. The research in this fellowship grant is part of a larger program to develop new technologies to measure and characterize prosody in people with and without autism. Prosody describes the acoustic properties of speech, including pitch, timing, amplitude and velocity, which are considered critical for communicating emotions, intent and directing attention. Research has shown that people with autism have deficits in “expressive” prosody that is speech directed at others. There has been little research on how well people with autism interpret other's prosody—called “receptive” prosody—but an inability to process prosody could explain the difficulties people with autism have understanding social cues. What this means for people with autism: Results from this research will not only help researchers better understand prosody impairments in people with autism, but will also lead to new and powerful measures for early diagnosis of the disorder that are both precise and objective. These measures may lead to the discovery of autism subtypes, thereby enabling better-targeted intervention.