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Publication Date

2008-01-01

Availability

UM campus only

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2007-12-14

First Committee Member

Peter C. Mundy - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Heather A. Henderson - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Ozcan Ozdamar - Committee Member

Abstract

Discrepant findings on whether children with autism display response inhibition deficits may be partially due to the wide variety of behavioral tasks used to assess inhibition. A more useful way of understanding early cognitive/attentional processes that influence response inhibition may be to look at neurophysiological measures. Specifically, the event related potential N2, a measurement of cognitive control or the effortful decision to inhibit a prepotent behavioral response, may be useful in understanding the discrepancy in response inhibition. In the current study we measured the N2 as high-functioning autistic children and age, IQ-matched control children performed a modified Flanker task. We further examined the associations between N2 amplitude and latency and variations in social communication within the HFA sample. Behavioral and electrophysiological data from a modified Flanker task were collected from 27 HFA (1 female) and 24 typically developing controls (1 female) ranging in age from 8- to 16-years. Symptom severity was measured using the ASSQ, ADI, and SCQ. Regarding behavioral performance, HFA children committed more errors than control children when controlling for age and verbal IQ. Electrophysiological performance indicated marginal group differences in N2 amplitude when controlling for age. Typical age-related decline in N2 amplitude was observed in the control group but not in the HFA group. There were no significant group differences found for N2 latency. In addition, greater N2 amplitude was correlated with lower scores on the SCQ for the HFA children. Behavioral performance does not conclude that the HFA children show deficits in inhibition, but deficits regarding impulsivity. Electrophysiological data suggest developmental change in N2 amplitude differentiates the HFA and control groups. Finally, the relationship between larger N2 amplitude and lower scores on the SCQ, within the HFA children, indicate that social communication deficits are less when greater cognitive effort is utilized.

Keywords

Inhibition; Cognitive Control; N2; Autism; EEG

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