Using Clustering to Examine Inter-individual Variability in Topography of Auditory Event-Related Potentials in Autism and Typical Development.

Publication date: Jul 22, 2021

Although prior studies have compared sensory event-related potential (ERP) responses between groups of autistic and typically-developing participants, it is unclear how heterogeneity contributes to the results of these studies. The present study used examined individual differences in these responses. 130 autistic children and 81 typically-developing children, aged between 2 and 5 years, listened to tones at four identity levels while 61-channel electroencephalography was recorded. Hierarchical clustering was used to group participants based on rescaled ERP topographies between 51 and 350 ms. The hierarchical clustering analysis revealed substantial heterogeneity. Some of the seven clusters defined in this analysis were characterized by prolonged fronto-central positivities and/or weak or absent N2 negativities. However, many other participants fell into clusters in which N2 responses were present at varying latencies. Atypical response morphologies such as absent N2 responses and/or prolonged positive-going responses found in some autistic participants may account for prior research findings of attenuated N2 amplitudes in autism. However, there was also considerable overlap between groups, with participants of both groups appearing in all clusters. These results emphasize the utility of using clustering to explore individual differences in brain responses, which can expand on and clarify the results of analyses of group mean differences.

Concepts Keywords
5years Electroencephalography
Atypical Autism
Autism Psychiatric diagnosis
Autistic Neurophysiology
Electroencephalography Neuroscience
Branches of biology
Groups participants groups
Event-related potential
Hierarchical clustering


Type Source Name
disease MESH Autism
disease MESH Development

Original Article

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