Case study: auditory brain responses in a minimally verbal child with autism and cerebral palsy

Shu H. Yau, Genevieve McArthur, Nicholas A. Badcock, Jon Brock

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An estimated 30% of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) remain minimally verbal into late childhood, but research on cognition and brain function in ASD focuses almost exclusively on those with good or only moderately impaired language. Here we present a case study investigating auditory processing of GM, a nonverbal child with ASD and cerebral palsy. At the age of 8 years, GM was tested using magnetoencephalography (MEG) whilst passively listening to speech sounds and complex tones. Where typically developing children and verbal autistic children all demonstrated similar brain responses to speech and nonspeech sounds, GM produced much stronger responses to nonspeech than speech, particularly in the 65–165 ms (M50/M100) time window post-stimulus onset. GM was retested aged 10 years using electroencephalography (EEG) whilst passively listening to pure tone stimuli. Consistent with her MEG response to complex tones, GM showed an unusually early and strong response to pure tones in her EEG responses. The consistency of the MEG and EEG data in this single case study demonstrate both the potential and the feasibility of these methods in the study of minimally verbal children with ASD. Further research is required to determine whether GM's atypical auditory responses are characteristic of other minimally verbal children with ASD or of other individuals with cerebral palsy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number208
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Yau, McArthur, Badcock and Brock. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • autism
  • autistic disorder
  • cerebralpalsy
  • auditory processing
  • event-related potentials
  • magnetoencephalography
  • language impairment
  • autism spectrum disorder


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