February 1982

Auditory Brainstem Evoked Responses in Autistic Children

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Child Psychiatry and Mental Retardation, Neuropsychiatric Institute (Drs Tanguay and Edwards and Mss Schwafel and Allen) and Brain Research Institute (Dr Buchwald), UCLA Center for the Health Sciences, Los Angeles.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1982;39(2):174-180. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1982.04290020040008

• Auditory brainstem evoked responses (ABRs) were studied in 16 autistic children. Three children had severe delays in wave I latency, indicating defective functioning of the peripheral auditory pathway. The remaining subjects also had delayed wave I latency but only for right ear stimulation at the lowest stimulus intensity. Eight autistic children (and no control subjects) had ABR transmission time values 3 SDs beyond the normal mean, suggesting auditory processing defects peripheral to or within the brainstem auditory pathway. These findings (1) may have no causal relationship to the child's autistic handicaps, (2) may represent distortions in auditory input that impair the learning of language, and (3) may reflect an earlier state in which abnormal input directly caused maldevelopment of forebrain systems necessary for language and cognitive function.