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Bloch, Carola; Tepest, Ralf; Jording, Mathis; Vogeley, Kai; Falter-Wagner, Christine M. (2022): Intrapersonal synchrony analysis reveals a weaker temporal coherence between gaze and gestures in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

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The temporal encoding of nonverbal signals within individuals, referred to as intrapersonal synchrony (IaPS), is an implicit process and essential feature of human communication. Based on existing evidence, IaPS is thought to be a marker of nonverbal behavior characteristics in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but there is a lack of empirical evidence. The aim of this study was to quantify IaPS in adults during an experimentally controlled real-life interaction task. A sample of adults with a confirmed ASD diagnosis and a matched sample of typically-developed adults were tested (N = 48). Participants were required to indicate the appearance of a target invisible to their interaction partner nonverbally through gaze and pointing gestures. Special eye-tracking software allowed automated extraction of temporal delays between nonverbal signals and their intrapersonal variability with millisecond temporal resolution as indices for IaPS. Likelihood ratio tests of multilevel models showed enlarged delays between nonverbal signals in ASD. Larger delays were associated with greater intrapersonal variability in delays. The results provide a quantitative constraint on nonverbal temporality in typically-developed adults and suggest weaker temporal coherence between nonverbal signals in adults with ASD. The results provide a potential diagnostic marker and inspire predictive coding theories about the role of IaPS in interpersonal synchronization processes.

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