Reduced auditory steady state responses in autism spectrum disorder

R. A. Seymour, G. Rippon, G. Gooding-williams, P. F. Sowman, K. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Auditory steady state responses (ASSRs) are elicited by clicktrains or amplitude-modulated tones, which entrain auditory cortex at their specific modulation rate. Previous research has reported reductions in ASSRs at 40 Hz for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participants and first-degree relatives of people diagnosed with ASD (Mol Autism. 2011;2:11, Biol Psychiatry. 2007;62:192–197).

Using a 1.5 s-long auditory clicktrain stimulus, designed to elicit an ASSR at 40 Hz, this study attempted to replicate and extend these findings. Magnetencephalography (MEG) data were collected from 18 adolescent ASD participants and 18 typically developing controls.

The ASSR localised to bilateral primary auditory regions. Regions of interest were thus defined in left and right primary auditory cortex (A1). While the transient gamma-band response (tGBR) from 0-0.1 s following presentation of the clicktrain stimulus was not different between groups, for either left or right A1, the ASD group had reduced oscillatory power at 40 Hz from 0.5 to 1.5 s post-stimulus onset, for both left and right A1. Additionally, the ASD group had reduced inter-trial coherence (phase consistency over trials) at 40 Hz from 0.64-0.82 s for right A1 and 1.04-1.22 s for left A1.

In this study, we did not conduct a clinical autism assessment (e.g. the ADOS), and therefore, it remains unclear whether ASSR power and/or ITC are associated with the clinical symptoms of ASD.

Overall, our results support a specific reduction in ASSR oscillatory power and inter-trial coherence in ASD, rather than a generalised deficit in gamma-band responses. We argue that this could reflect a developmentally relevant reduction in non-linear neural processing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalMolecular Autism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.


Dive into the research topics of 'Reduced auditory steady state responses in autism spectrum disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this