Social attention, emotion, and amygdala volume development in preschool-aged children with autism Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mosconi, Matt
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • The social and emotional deficits of autism emerge in childhood and are present throughout the lifetime. Research on early development is limited, due, in large part, to reliance on retrospective parent reports, which are plagued by recall biases, and qualitative rating scales that are less sensitive than dimensional ratings to variation among affected individuals. The present study details the development and application of a novel observational coding system, the Social and Emotional Perspective (SEP), useful for quantifying social and emotional behavior in preschool aged children with autism participating in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). The convergent validity of the SEP was supported by examining the relationship between its items and related subdomains of the ADOS. Comparison of a longitudinal sample of children with autism studied at 18-35 months and 42-59 months with cross-sectional age matched typically developing children indicated that the SEP was sensitive to a range of social and emotional deficits in children with autism. The majority of these deficits were evident at both time points, and two behaviors, looking at others and showing positive emotion, actually became more severely impaired over time in the autism group. The SEP also was used in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the association of social and emotional behaviors with the amygdala, a neural structure previously hypothesized to underlie the core social features of autism (Baron-Cohen et al., 1999). Results indicated that the amygdala was enlarged in the autism group, and that volumes were related to social initiation and positive emotion displays in the autism group. The implications of understanding these brain-behavior linkages and potential applications of the SEP are discussed.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Mesibov, Gary B.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2007

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