Publication Date

2011-12-14

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2011-12-14

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-09-30

First Committee Member

Heather A. Henderson

Second Committee Member

Bonnie Levin

Third Committee Member

Daniel Messinger

Fourth Committee Member

Michael Alessandri

Fifth Committee Member

Ozcan Ozdamar

Abstract

Younger siblings of children with autism (Sibs-ASD) are at risk for the development of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or subclinical social and cognitive deficits better known as the Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP).The current study utilized a multi-level approach to examine executive attention and social competence in preschool-aged Sibs-ASD and a comparison group of age-, sex-, and Verbal IQ-matched younger siblings of children without autism (Sibs-COM). Forty-two participants (24 Sibs-ASD, 18 Sibs-COM) completed a modified version of the Children’s Attention Network Task (ANT), with electroencephalograph (EEG) collected simultaneously, and a peer interaction paradigm with an unfamiliar peer.Overall, Sibs-ASD and Sibs-COM displayed comparable performance on behavioral indices of the Children’s ANT, P3 amplitude and latency, and measures of observed social functioning. Surprisingly, Sibs-ASD displayed a reduced (less negative) N2 amplitude and shorter N2 latency, most evident at Fz compared to FCz, a finding not observed in Sibs-COM. Furthermore, on a parent-report index of social functioning,Sibs-ASD reportedly displayed greater social impairments than Sibs-COM. Interestingly, post-hoc analyses indicated that differences in N2 amplitude and social functioning were most apparent between affected Sibs-ASD and Sibs-COM. Therefore, results of this study provide support for social and cognitive deficits consistent with theories of the BAP.

Keywords

Psychology; Child Development; Autism; BAP; Electrophysiology

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