Research by Topic: Social Interaction

Comparing cognitive outcomes among children with autism spectrum disorders receiving community-based early intervention in one of three placements

Published April 18, 2014 in Autism: the international journal of research and practice

"Little comparative research examines which community-based preschool intervention placements produce the best outcomes for which children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism-specific placements can provide intensive evidence-based care; however, inclusion settings provide interaction with typically developing peers, the importance of which is increasingly recognized. This study examined the association between early intervention placement in three settings […]

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Atypical Cross Talk Between Mentalizing and Mirror Neuron Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published April 16, 2014 in JAMA Psychiatry

Atypical brain connectivity in areas that affect social interactions have been found in people with autism spectrum disorders. This difference in connectivity is found in networks of the brain that help individuals understand what others are thinking, and to understand others’ actions and emotions. Up until now, it was thought that these areas of the brain were under-connected in people with autism, but this study shows that more often than not, they are actually over-connected. The study also found that the greater the difference in neural connectivity, the more social interactions were impaired.

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Adults with Autism Can’t Discern False Emotions

Published January 17, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Adults with autism usually understand in theory when and why others may feign emotions, but they dont recognize those expressions in real-life situations, reports a study published in Autism Research. This inability to guess what triggered someones subtle expression can lead to social missteps congratulating instead of consoling a disappointed friend, for example.

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Children with Autism Benefit from Peer Solicitation

Published December 12, 2013 in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Peer solicitation a child inviting another to play can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study. While the children with autism in the study initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children with or without autism to interact.

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Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Social Communication and Emotion Recognition

Published November 19, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3,666 children were assessed on their ability to correctly recognize emotions by looking at faces. Children with autistic-like social communication difficulties were compared with children without such difficulties. Autistic-like social communication difficulties were associated with poorer recognition of emotion from social motion cues in both genders, but were associated with poorer facial emotion recognition in boys only. Relatively good performance of girls on the task of facial emotion discrimination may be due to compensatory mechanisms, though more research is needed in this area.

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Oxytocin and Serotonin May Not be Rewarding Social Interactions in Autistic Brain

Published September 11, 2013 in Nature

In the brain, oxytocin and serotonin work together to make social interactions pleasurable, rewarding, and worth repeating. A new study in the journal Nature shows that in individuals with autism, these rewarding functions may not be occurring properly, making social interaction uncomfortable.

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Manual Gives Emergency Crews Autism Training

Published August 20, 2013 in Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Researchers have developed a manual called, “A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel: Assessing and Treating Individuals With Autism.” Emergency rooms are often loud and chaotic; this can frighten a person with autism, further hindering his or her communication or sensory skills. This guide aims to teach emergency care givers how to best communicate with and assess autistic patients in these hectic environments.

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Voices May Not Trigger Brain’s Reward Centers in Children with ASD

Published June 17, 2013 in PNAS

This Stanford study identifies an underconnectivity between the voice-selective cortex and the reward centers in the brain. This could suggest why children with autism have trouble grasping the social and emotional aspects of human speech.

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Seaside Therapeutics Discontinues Arbaclofen (STX209) Extension Study

Published May 31, 2013 in The Boston Globe

Seaside Therapeutics has discontinued their extension study of Arbaclofen (STX209), a drug that showed promise in treating social impairment related to Fragile X syndrome.

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Increasing the Gut Bacteria In Mice That Lack Them Helps Increase Their Sociability with Familiar Mice

Published May 21, 2013 in Molecular Psychiatry

A new study finds that increasing the gut bacteria populations in mice that lack them helps to increase their sociability. The increase in sociability is mainly limited to familiar mice but the study does show support for the theory of a connection between the gut and autism in certain cases.

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DSM-5: The Debate Continues

Published May 15, 2013 in Molecular Autism

The editors of Molecular Autism, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and ASF SAB member Dr. Joe Buxbaum, invited the labs of Dr. Cathy Lord and Dr. Fred Volkmar to offer their perspectives on the new DSM-5 criteria for the autism spectrum.Read Dr. Lord’s commentary here: Dr. Volkmar’s commentary here:

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Special Issue on: School-based Research of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published May 1, 2013 in Autism

Autism Special Issue

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Cognitive Enhancement Therapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Results of an 18-month Feasibility Study

Published April 26, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

New findings from a small pilot study suggest cognitive enhancement therapy is a feasible and effective intervention for cognitive impairments in verbal adults with ASD. Adult participants were highly satisfied with the therapy and treatment attendance was high, indicating their willingness to participate in and commit to an intervention that they considered useful.

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Social Participation Among Young Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published April 25, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

In an attempt to raise awareness of the unique obstacles faced by young adults with ASD, researchers compared their social experiences with the experiences of young adults who received special education services for intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, or learning disability and found young adults with ASD experienced significantly more social isolation.

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Cognition and Behavior: ‘Mind blindness’ Has Brain Signature

Published April 13, 2013 in SFARI

Two recent studies have linked mind-blindness to atypical patterns of brain activity in people with ASD.

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Sleep disruption as a correlate to cognitive and adaptive behavior problems in autism spectrum disorders.

Published March 25, 2013 in PubMed

Results suggested that children who slept fewer hours per night had lower overall intelligence, verbal skills, overall adaptive functioning, daily living skills, socialization skills, and motor development.

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A Quantitative Link between Face Discrimination Deficits and Neuronal Selectivity for Faces in Autism

Published March 15, 2013 in NeuroImage: Clinical

In this fMRI study of adults with ASD, reduced neuronal selectivity for faces was linked to greater behavioral deficits in face recognition.

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Frequency and Pattern of Documented Diagnostic Features and the Age of Autism Identification

Published February 6, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Pediatric Psychiatry

The age at which a child with autism is diagnosed is related to the particular suite of behavioral symptoms he or she exhibits, according to this study led by an ASF Grantee. Certain diagnostic features, including poor nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, were associated with earlier identification of an autism spectrum disorder. Displaying more behavioral features was also associated with earlier diagnosis.For more information about this study, read the guest blog from the lead author here:

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Brief Report: Is Cognitive Rehabilitation Needed in Verbal Adults with Autism? Insights from Initial Enrollment in a Trial of Cognitive Enhancement Therapy

Published February 5, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Early results from this pilot trial of cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) indicate that despite above-average intelligence, verbal adults with ASD can have significantly impaired neurocognition and social cognition. The authors suggest CET, which is designed to remediate both social and non-social deficits through computer-based neurocognitive training, could be useful for cognitive rehabilitation in this population.

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Parent-child Interactions in Autism: Characteristics of Play

Published February 4, 2013 in Autism

Researchers examine parent-child dyads during structured and free play and find that that joint engagement lasts longer when parents engage their child at or slightly above the child’s current level of play. Parents of children with autism often find it difficult to estimate their child’s level, which can result in parents engaging at too high of a level and shortening the interaction.

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Familiarity Breeds Support: Speech-language Pathologists Perceptions of Bullying of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 31, 2013 in Journal of Communication Disorders

According to this study, school-based speech language pathologists may be an untapped resource in the fight against bullying of children with ASD.

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Improving Socialization for High School Students with ASD by Using Their Preferred Interests

Published January 30, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Not surprisingly, research shows that when the interests of adolescents with ASDs are incorporated into school activities, these students display higher levels of engagement and are more likely to initiate interactions with their typical peers.

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Is He Being Bad? Social and Language Brain Networks during Social Judgment in Children with Autism

Published October 17, 2012 in PLOS One

This fMRI study on social judgment supports claims that autistic children may recognize socially inappropriate behavior but find it difficult to express why its inappropriate.

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Interventions Addressing Social Impairment in Autism

Published October 4, 2012 in Current Psychiatry Reports

In this new review of intervention studies targeting social impairment in autism, authors encourage researchers to design new studies that: evaluate ingredients of effective interventions (e.g., required dose for therapeutic effect); include better outcome measures that can show that meaningful improvements have happened (e.g., spontaneous social initiations; sustained interactions); and include underserved and underrepresented participant groups, such as children with comorbidities, non-English speaking children, and minimally verbal children.

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Precursors to Social and Communication Difficulties in Infants At-Risk for Autism: Gaze Following and Attentional Engagement

Published October 1, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

“Whilst joint attention (JA) impairments in autism have been widely studied, little is known about the early development of gaze following, a precursor to establishing JA. We employed eye-tracking to record gaze following longitudinally in infants with and without a family history of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 7 and 13 months. No group difference was found between at-risk and low-risk infants in gaze following behaviour at either age. However, despite following gaze successfully at 13 months, at-risk infants with later emerging socio-communication difficulties (both those with ASD and atypical development at 36 months of age) allocated less attention to the congruent object compared to typically developing at-risk siblings and low-risk controls. The findings suggest that the subtle emergence of difficulties in JA in infancy may be related to ASD and other atypical outcomes.”

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The Development of Referential Communication and Autism Symptomatology in High-Risk Infants

Published October 1, 2012 in Infancy

This study suggests that non-verbal communication delays in infants with autistic siblings can predict later ASD symptoms.For a Science Daily article on this paper, click here:

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Experimental Drug may Treat Social Withdrawal Symptoms in Individuals with Fragile X Syndrome, the Most Common Known Genetic Cause of Autism.

Published September 19, 2012 in Science Translational Medicine

Arbaclofen, also known as STX209, shows promise in its treatment of social symptoms associated with fragile x syndrome.

Effects of STX209 (Arbaclofen) on Neurobehavioral Function in Children and Adults with Fragile X Syndrome: A Randomized, Controlled, Phase 2 Trial

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Children With An Autism Spectrum Disorder Often Victims Of Bullying

Published September 3, 2012 in

Nearly half of U.S. children with an autism spectrum disorder are victims of bullying, a new study from University of California at Berkeley finds.

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Early Behavioral Intervention is Associated with Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children with Autism

Published August 31, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

This randomized trial associated ESDM with normalized brain activity and behavioral improvements in young children with ASD.

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Stanford researchers investigate the emotional side of autism

Published August 14, 2012 in Stanford School of Medicine

Researchers at Stanford University have found that adults with autism spectrum disorders report greater levels of negative emotion in general.

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Stanford researchers investigate the emotional side of autism

Published August 14, 2012 in Emotion

Researchers at Stanford University have found that adults with autism spectrum disorders report greater levels of negative emotion in general.

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Pets May Help Kids With Autism

Published August 1, 2012 in

Researchers in France found that children with autism who became pet owners after the age of 5 performed better than children without pets on two key measures of social functioning — offering comfort and offering to share. Having a pet from birth did not appear to influence the socialization behaviors, leading the researchers to conclude that the arrival of a pet when a child is old enough to recognize the addition may be critical.

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How Autism is Changing the World for Everybody

Published July 26, 2012 in i09

Interesting article including interviews with Steve Silberman and Andrea Kuszewski about how studying autism is changing the world for everyone!

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Study from UCSB Examines Teaching Initiations in Social Intervention Programs for School Children with Autism

Published May 29, 2012 in

A new study from UC Santa Barbara found that teaching initiations in social intervention programs improved social engagement for school children with autism.

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Study from University of South Australia Found that Individuals with ASD had Impairments in Face Processing and Acquiring Familiar Representations

Published May 24, 2012 in

A new study from the University of South Australia and the University of Cambridge found that individuals with ASD had impairments in processing faces and acquiring new face representations for familiarity.

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Many with Autism Lack Work Experience

Published May 14, 2012 in Chicago Sun-Times

One in three young adults with autism has no paid job experience, college, or technical schooling nearly seven years after high school graduation, a new study finds.

Many with Autism Lack Work Experience

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Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children With Autism

Published May 1, 2012 in Pediatrics

“OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to describe the typical longitudinal developmental trajectories of social and communication functioning in children with autism and to determine the correlates of these trajectories.RESULTS: Six typical patterns of social, communication, and repetitive behavior functioning were identified. These trajectories displayed significant heterogeneity in developmental pathways, and children whose symptoms were least severe at first diagnosis tended to improve more rapidly than those severely affected. “

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Atypical Brain Activation Patterns During a Face-to-Face Joint Attention Game in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Published April 16, 2012 in Human Brain Mapping

Researchers used fMRI while participants played a joint-attention game to better understand the neural correlates of joint attention.

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Exploring the Social Impact of Being a Typical Peer Model for Included Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published January 4, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Peer-mediated treatments are considered best practice in improving social skills in children with ASD, but parents and school staff have voiced concerns about the social outcomes of typically developing students who serve as models for their autistic peers. This study addresses these concerns, showing that typically developing children maintain stable and positive social status after acting as peer buddies in a social skills intervention for children with ASD.

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Intervention Targeting Development of Socially Synchronous Engagement in Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Published January 1, 2011 in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Two-year-olds with ASD showed improved social skills after completing an intervention targeting core social deficits in autism. It is the first randomized controlled trial to test such an intervention in toddlers and gives promise that a supplementary curriculum could improve social and communication skills in very young children. The researchers randomly assigned 50 toddlers with […]

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Autistic Toddlers Prefer to Gaze at Geometric Patterns

Published September 7, 2010 in Bloomberg Business Week

Eye-tracking study reveals that a toddler’s infatuation with geometric patterns instead of social interactions such as dancing, jumping and smiling could be an early sign of autism.

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Language as a Window into Sociability

Published August 13, 2010 in Science Daily

People with Williams syndrome-known for their indiscriminate friendliness and ease with strangers-process spoken language differently from people with autism spectrum disorders-characterized by social withdrawal and isolation-found researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

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Shadows May Distract Autistic Children

Published May 20, 2010 in MSNBC

Children with autism literally see shadows differently from their counterparts, a new study reveals. While people can look at the shadow of an object and often figure out what the object is, shadows interfere with how autistic children recognize objects.These new findings shed light on the sensory abnormalities that accompany and possibly even help cause autism, researchers added.

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Brain Becomes Tuned to Voices and Emotional Tone of Voice During Pregnancy

Published March 24, 2010 in Science Daily

New research finds that the brains of infants as young as 7 months old demonstrate a sensitivity to the human voice and to emotions communicated through the voice that is remarkably similar to what is observed in the brains of adults.

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