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Cognitive Functioning in Children

November 11, 2020 - November 1, 2025

What are the goals of the study?

This study proposal seeks to collect a foundational dataset to determine how basic perceptual processes may explain individual differences in social communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Issues in social communication often refers to high-level visual skills such as discriminating facial expressions, or auditory skills such as discriminating between different tones of voice.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will complete tasks where they are presented with stimuli that they see, hear, and, touch and will respond to them in questions that ask about what they perceived, remembered, and/or ask them to solve puzzles. Participants’ guardians will be asked to complete a variety of questionnaires about your child. These may ask about personal information, aspects of the child’s personality and habits, questions about their experiences and feelings. They will be asked to participate in 3 experimental sessions that will last up to 60 minutes. Participants will download experimental software for these sessions onto their tablet or smartphone.

How will this help families?

Identifying distinct groups within our ASD sample is critical for future work on intervention efficacy and for better understanding the mechanisms which lead to the wide range of abilities and symptoms observed in ASD. If we find these hypothesized relationships between our specific tasks and tasks of emotion recognition, it could help individualize interventions for children who struggle with specific aspects of social functioning. For example, if a child’s intervention goals included improving her ability to recognize affective facial expressions, our data would provide preliminary evidence that she may benefit from tasks training visual contour integration (along with more traditional explicit teaching methods). Further, these tasks can be used in young children to potentially identify early developmental signs of ASD and interventions for basic perceptual processes at these earlier stages may help aid their social development. Identification and validation of potential subgroups of children with ASD will inform future research efforts in a variety of domains (e.g. neuroscience, pharmacological and/or behavioral clinical trials, genetics, etc).

Eligibility Criteria

Participants will be of 8-12 year-old children with and without ASD (n = 200 children with ASD, n=100 neurotypical, total n = 300). The ASD participants in the study will have had an existing diagnosis of ASD given by a clinician and confirmed using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). In addition, all participants will have IQ’s above 70 to ensure that they are able to participate in all study procedures. Children with certain additional diagnoses, along with ASD, will not be excluded (e.g., ASD and anxiety), even if taking medication to manage their symptoms. Participants will be included only if they have sufficient decisional capacity to understand the assent process, and participants will be included only if their parents have sufficient decisional capacity to understand the consent process.

Contact Information

Aaron Seitz at aseitz@ucr.edu or Katherine Stavropoulos at katherine.stavropoulos@ucr.edu

Research Study Website
UC Riverside Brain Game Center

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