Behavioral Research Blog

Autistic mice have motor learning difficulties specific to the cerebellum

Posted by G. Smit on Jan 13, 2017

Most of us are familiar with the typical behavioral characteristics associated with autism: social behavior deficits and repetitive behaviors. However, motor abnormalities are also a part of the autism behavioral spectrum. These have generally been linked to malfunction of the cerebral cortex, but recent studies have also implicated the cerebellum.

Autistic phenotype in mice

Shank2 is a gene that encodes a postsynaptic protein and has been linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In short, inactivation of this gene in mice creates “autistic mice” (Won et al. Nature 2012).

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Topics: mice, autism research, ErasmusLadder, cerebellum, autism

Video-recording children with ASD in-home

Posted by Jacqueline Martinali on Aug 8, 2016

Nowadays we often come across signs or printed versions of funny, motivational, and inspirational quotes about our homes. You’ll probably confirm this for yourself: we’ve all seen  a postcard, a doormat, or a picture in a magazine with sentences like: ‘Home is where the heart is’, ‘Home is where you can be yourself’ or ‘Home sweet home’. A funny one I like is ‘Home is where your Wi-Fi connects automatically’. We also read listings which convince us that ‘in this house we are real, we make mistakes, we say I’m sorry, we have fun, we forgive, we love’ and so on.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, autism research, video recording, coding behavior, ASD, autism

Become and stay aware about children with autism

Posted by Jacqueline Martinali on Apr 6, 2016

Last week I had a chat with a friend of mine whose eldest son (8 years old) was diagnosed several years ago with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She told me about a conversation she and her husband had with a speech therapist, who explained to them that when someone asks their son a question or tells him something to do, it usually takes 7 seconds before his brain processed this information. Imagine that, 7 seconds – that’s quite a lot. In those 7 seconds many other words can be said or questions can be asked. But for this little boy it means that it is important to speak slowly and give one instruction at a time, or you will likely get little to no response, or only partial task completion.

Become and stay aware about children with autism

When there is a lack of understanding, you don’t realize that he needs this time to see the whole picture. When you have to deal with this over and over again, every single day, you can become very frustrated and annoyed by the child’s seeming failure to understand, or worse, lack of desire to listen.

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Topics: The Observer XT, autism research, parent-child interaction, child, social cognition, ASD, theatre, autism

How autistic fruit flies behave

Posted by G. Smit on Feb 26, 2015

The number of children with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased exponentially in the past 20 years: one out of six children in the US now suffers from a developmental disability. Of course some might say this sharp incline is due to better diagnostics and increased awareness; but whether or not this is the case, such a high prevalence is concerning. And since the environment is considered a strong contributor, chemicals such as BPA have been under investigation lately.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, Video tracking, autism research, drosophila, fruit fly

Three things we take with us from 2014

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Dec 23, 2014

As the year comes to a close, the results are crystal clear.

We have rounded up the top three most viewed blog posts of 2014 in psychology, neuromarketing, and autism research.

Interested? Read on!

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Topics: autism research, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads, Neuromarketing

Making Sense of the Senses: The Real Cost of Paying Attention

Posted by Jason Rogers on Nov 11, 2014

By Jason Rogers, Ph.D.

We live in a demanding world: the snort of an email, the squeal of a text, fare alerts, breaking news, SQUIRREL! What was I saying? Oh yes, we live in a distracted world. With DVRs holding thousands of hours of entertainment; phones and tablets keeping us occupied while we watch those thousands of DVRed hours, it seems that something always has our attention. But what does that really mean? The term itself is used a bit like a commodity: always demanding that we pay for it. The affectionally dubbed “Brain Bank” allows a controlled bit of withdrawal at any given moment. We are literally trapped in a world bombarded by sensory information. As you read this, you are neglecting your world in order to process these words. What do you hear right now? What sweater are you wearing? Now are you thinking about what you are going to wear tomorrow? Or what’s on your calendar? SQUIRREL! Please allow me to withdrawal a bit of currency from your Brain Bank to discuss the real cost of paying attention.

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Topics: autism research, consumer behavior, Neuromarketing, consumer behavior research, neuropsychology

Are there objective tests for predicting autism severity?

Posted by G. Smit on Apr 10, 2014

Some disorders cannot simply be diagnosed with a blood test or tissue-culture. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a good example; its diagnosis relies upon behavioral tests and questionnaires. Both are inherently subjective – you can imagine that research, diagnosis, and treatment of autism would benefit from a more efficient and objective way to measure behavior and quantify the severity of autism.

Video tracking children with ASD

Ira Cohen and his colleagues have made some significant steps in this direction in recent years. We wrote about his research last year in this blog post, telling you about how video tracking data correlated with the severity of autism in children. This research was presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in 2013, and recently published in Molecular Autism.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, Video tracking, autism research, parent-child interaction

Autism Top 10 Blog Articles from the Behavioral Research Blog

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jan 14, 2014

It was no surprise that these blog articles attracted lots of attention. Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. (www.autismspeaks.org). Read the Autism Top 10 Blog Articles from the Behavioral Research Blog to stay updated on the latest developments in Autism Research.

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Topics: Video tracking, The Observer XT, video observation, T-patterns, Theme, autism research

iPads® and children with ASD are a great combination!

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Dec 3, 2013

“The rapid rise in popularity and perceived potential of the iPad® has led to many educational services in the USA and elsewhere purchasing iPads® for their students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)”. That’s exactly what Amie King and colleagues (2013) inspired to start with an exploratory study into the use of iPads at a special day school for individuals with significant impairments in Midwestern United States. In a sense the popularity of this technology has outpaced research into its effectiveness. With their research, King et al. aimed to fill the knowledge gap in the tablet research literature.

How are children with ASD using iPads?
The study of King and her colleagues shows us how children with ASD are currently using iPads and apps and explores the role that education professionals have on iPad and app use. The study took place in a school to explore the use in an educational context. A total of 28 apps were observed. These were classified in three categories: 1) augmentative and alternative communication apps (AAC), 2) academic apps, and 3) game apps. The young adults and children who participated in this study were recorded on video during a school day. A total of six children and young adults (6y to 20y) with ASD were observed. King et al. explain that their choice for naturalistic observation methods enabled them to provide an unobtrusive glimpse of routine iPad use in children with ASD in their typical environment. Data coding was performed using The Observer XT software. By dividing the coding work in five phases from more general to in-depth analysis, the researchers were able to code the segments of video which were of particular interest to them in great detail. This analysis of video material led them towards describing durations of behaviors of interest, such as time spent in each of the four iPad environments (app, home screen, app settings, iPad settings), time spent in each category of app, and time app functions were used 'correctly' or 'incorrectly' (fulfilled/violated (King et al. 2013)).

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, classroom observation software, autism research

Vocalizations as an early life behavioral marker for ASD

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Aug 30, 2013

One of the prominent features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is impaired communication. However, most diagnoses of ASD happen after the child is more than 3 years old, so there is not much information on the vocalizations of young children with ASD. For children under the age of 3, certain communication skills are not applicable – more information is needed on purely vocalizations (not conversation or language) in order to work on identifying another early life behavioral marker for ASD. In this study, Allison M. Plumb and Amy M. Wetherby chose to examine the vocalizations of ASD children at age 2 and the relationship of these vocalizations to other areas of development.

The goals of the study
Plumb and Wetherby wanted to examine the vocalizations of children aged 18 to 24 months in one group with those who were later diagnosed with ASD and two matched groups for children with developmental delays (DD) and typical development (TD). First, they wanted to compare communicative and non-communicative vocalizations displayed by the children between the three groups. Second, they wanted to examine the concurrent and predictive relationships between vocalization at age 2 and developmental measures at age 2 and 4 in ASD-diagnosed children. Lastly, they wanted to determine if communicative vocalization at age 2 would predict the child’s nonverbal and verbal developmental level at age 3 more than non-communicative vocalizations would.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, autism research, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads

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