A new study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center finds that children with autism live in a world that resembles a badly-dubbed foreign movie. They struggle to integrate what they see and what they hear.

Reporting in The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers described a study comparing 32 high-functioning children with autism and 32 children who are developmentally typical. The children, ages 6 to 18, performed a battery of tasks, most using computers.

The researchers found that the children with autism have what’s called “an enlarged temporal binding window.” Their brains had difficulty associating information from their eyes and their ears, said Stephen Camarata, a co-author of the study.

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“One of the classic pictures of children with autism is they have their hands over their ears,” said Mark Wallace, who led the study and directs the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. “We believe that one reason for this may be that they are trying to compensate for their changes in sensory function by simply looking at one sense at a time.”

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