Pitch Processing in Tonal-Language-Speaking Children with Autism: An Event-Related Potential Study

Luodi Yu, Yuebo Fan, Zhizhou Deng, Dan Huang, Suiping Wang, Yang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3656-3667
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31271086), and key project from the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China (2014A030311016) to Suiping Wang. Zhang was supported by an autism initiative award from the Department of Pediatrics, and a Brain Imaging Research Project Award from the College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota. We thank Yang Fan, Jian Huang, Xiaofeng Jie, Xiaoyun Wu, Xueqin Qian for their assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Autism
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Language development
  • Mismatch negativity (MMN)
  • Pitch processing
  • Speech perception


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