A Semantic Priming Event-related Potential (ERP) Task to Study Lexico-semantic and Visuo-semantic Processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

J Vis Exp. 2018 Apr 12;(134):

Authors: Coderre EL

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have characteristic deficits in understanding the meaning of language, or semantic processing. However, some evidence indicates that semantic processing of non-linguistic stimuli is intact, suggesting that semantic deficits may be language-specific. To appropriately characterize semantic processing deficits in individuals with ASD, comparison of within-modality linguistic (e.g., written words) and non-linguistic (e.g., pictures) stimuli is required. This paper describes such a methodology that makes use of a semantic priming paradigm during concurrent recording of electroencephalographic (EEG) data. EEG provides a dynamic measure of brain activity that is well-suited to characterize subtle differences in semantic processing that may not be observable at the behavioral level. The semantic priming paradigm presents a prime picture or word (e.g., dog) followed by a target picture or word that is either related (e.g., cat) or unrelated (e.g., pencil) to the prime. This paradigm can thus be used to evaluate semantic processing across different modalities, and to compare lexico-semantic and visuo-semantic processing abilities in individuals with ASD and how they might differ from TD individuals. The specific steps involved in creating the stimuli, performing the EEG testing, and analyzing the EEG data are discussed. Representative results illustrate how the N400 component of the event-related potential (ERP) is reduced following semantically-related prime-target pairs compared to unrelated pairs. Comparisons of the N400 between conditions, modalities, and groups can provide estimates of the success of semantic processing, and can thereby be used to characterize semantic deficits in individuals with ASD or other clinical populations.

PMID: 29708550 [PubMed – in process]

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