What's in a name? A preliminary event-related potential study of response to name in preschool children with and without autism spectrum disorder.
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<p>The ability to selectively respond to one's own name is important for social and language development, and is disrupted in atypically developing populations (e.g., autism spectrum disorder). Research with typically developing samples using event-related potentials (ERPs) has demonstrated that the subject's own name (SON) is differentiated from other stimuli at both early sensory and later cognitive stages of auditory processing. While neural indices of response to name have been researched extensively in adults, no such studies have been conducted with typically developing preschool children or children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study investigated ERP response to name in a sample of typically developing (TD) preschoolers (n = 19; mean age = 4.3 years) as well as a small, exploratory comparison group of preschoolers with ASD (n = 13; mean age = 4.4 years). TD preschoolers exhibited significantly greater negativity to SON over frontal regions than to an unfamiliar nonsense name, consistent with the adult SON negativity component. This component was present whether the name was spoken by a parent or an unfamiliar adult, suggesting that it reflects SON-specific processing rather than broad self-relevant information processing. Comparing preschoolers with ASD to the TD children revealed a significant SON negativity component across both groups. The amplitude of the SON negativity response was significantly correlated with social variables in the ASD group, though these correlations did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. This study is the first to demonstrate the presence of the SON component in preschool children with and without ASD.</p>