Author: Jon Brock

Hello. My name's Jon Brock. I'm a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the ARC Centre for Cognition and its Disorders and the Departments of Cognitive Science and Psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. My research focuses on cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in developmental disorders including autism, Williams syndrome, and Down syndrome. Publications can be downloaded here. My CV (pdf) can be downloaded here. As well as this blog, I've also written for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, and The Conversation. Translations of some of my posts can be found on the Spanish-language website Autismo Diario. This blog is for interest only and should not be seen as a substitute for professional advice. Opinions expressed are my own (at the time of writing).

Brain imaging study: request for volunteers

We are looking for volunteers, aged 10-25, who have been identified as being on the autism spectrum to participate in a brain imaging study at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience unusually strong or atypical reactions to sights and sounds and this can have a major impact on their quality of life. Our research aims to understand how the brains of individuals with autism and typically developing children, adolescents and young adults differ in their response to sounds and images.

Participants will play two interactive tasks involving aliens, astronauts and musical tones. Whilst doing this, we measure the tiny magnetic fields produced by the brain. This technique, known as MEG, is completely safe. The MEG machine is silent and you will not be in any discomfort.

We will also take a picture of participants’ brain using an MRI scanner. This is also non-invasive but is noisy and requires participants to lie still in a confined space for about 10 minutes.

Finally, we will ask participants to complete some simple tests of language and reasoning skills. And we ask parents to fill out a brief questionnaire.

The study takes place in our labs at the Australian Hearing Hub on the Macquarie University campus. Altogether, it takes around 2.5 hours to complete. We pay $50 for each child. Participants also receive a picture of their brain.


Please contact Robert Seymour for more information:

A study of intervention outcomes in children with autism

This is a research project that you have the option to take part in if you have a child with autism aged 8-12 years old.

The research is being conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, Aspect and Neuroscience Research Australia.

The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of autism and help us to determine which factors are associated with good outcomes for children on the spectrum. (more…)

Research study: Measuring Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

You are invited to take part in a study that will assist in developing a measure for children and adolescents with anxiety including anxiety in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

If you decide to take part you will be asked to complete online questionnaires involving some demographic questions and a series of questions about child anxiety. The study will take between 20-30 minutes to complete.

Your answers will be entirely anonymous and confidential. Completing the study will make you eligible for the chance to win one of five $100 Coles Myer Gift Vouchers.

We are looking for parents of children and adolescents aged 6-18years. (more…)

Understanding the Role of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene in anxiety and social behaviours in individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is this study? What does it involve?

We are looking at genetic factors that influence social and psychological functioning in autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Adults and children aged 12 years and over with autism will be asked to complete a range of questionnaires asking about social and psychological functioning and will be asked to provide a saliva sample, so we can look at individual differences in the oxytocin receptor gene, a gene involved in social approach and avoidance behaviours. Parents/informants/guardians will also be asked to complete some questionnaires.

All research can be undertaken in the privacy of your own home and should take around 60-90 minutes to complete.

Who can participate?

Adults, teens and children (5 years and over) who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (e.g. ASD, Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder) are invited to participate, along with their parents/carers! (more…)

Brain and Mind Centre: Autism Research Update

Have we found the genes for ASD? 
Professor Patrick Bolton, Professor in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, King’s College, London

What are the family impacts of autism genetics?
Emeritus Professor Patricia Howlin, Professor of Clinical Child Psychology, King’s College, London and Professor of Developmental Disorders, University of Sydney

Is there an autism epidemic?
Professor Stewart Einfeld, Senior Scientist, Brain and Mind Centre and Chair of Mental Health, Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney

What do we know about brain changes in Autism?
Professor Maxwell Bennett, Professor of Neuroscience, Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney

Friday 13 November 2015
9.00am – 12.30pm
This is a seminar that is intended for professionals.

Lecture Theatre
Level 5, Building F
Brain and Mind Centre
94 Mallett St, Camperdown

Price: No Charge

For further information, please contact Lauren Rice

Study of movement coordination in adults with ASD

We are looking for adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to take part in a study of movement coordination at Macquarie University.

Movement coordination can be a challenge for lots of people on the autism spectrum. In this study, we measure people’s muscle activity while they transfer objects from one hand to the other. The results will provide important information about how people with ASD coordinate different parts of their bodies.

Who can take part?

We are looking for adults (18 to 35) with a diagnosis of autism, Asperger syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, or PDD-NOS, who live in the Sydney area. (more…)

ARC Centre for Cognition and its Disorders: Stakeholder’s workshop

29 April 2014, Macquarie University, Sydney

Registration is essential but free

This workshop, to be held at the Macquarie University node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), is a special opportunity to further develop and enhance collaborative links between CCD researchers and the organisations that benefit from their work.

With a theme of “sharing vision for future research impacts”, the day will commence with presentations by representatives from the CCD’s key stakeholder organisations outlining how each organisation supports the community and highlighting focus areas for 2014 and beyond.

These presentations will be followed by interactive demonstrations by CCD researchers from all three of the CCD’s nodes and tours of CCD and Cochlear facilities. There will also be opportunities for informal networking for researchers and stakeholders over the tea break, lunch and during drinks/canapés at the conclusion of the workshop.

Research facilities to be showcased include the KIT-Macquarie Brain Research Laboratory, the CCD’s state-of-art Liquid Helium Recovery System, and the research and development laboratories at Cochlear Ltd.

The KIT-Macquarie Brain Research Laboratory, which includes two world-first magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain imaging systems – one for investigating cognitive processing in children, and a custom-designed MEG system that can be used with children and adults with Cochlear Implants – is one of the world’s most advanced laboratories for brain research.

Dr Trevor Clark, Autism Spectrum Australia
Dr Molly de Lemos, Learning Difficulties Australia
Mr Bill Gye, OAM, Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW
Professor Greg Leigh, Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children
Ms Alison McMurtrie, Learning Difficulties Australia
Mr Brendan Moore, Alzheimer’s Australia
Professor Jim Patrick, Cochlear, Ltd
Professor Leanne Togher, Speech Pathology Australia

For more information and to register for this event, visit:

Brain Sciences UNSW Colloquium: Social Cognition in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Prof Allan Reiss

Our interactions with other people are one of the most important aspects of day to day life. Our understanding of the neural underpinnings of social behaviors is increasing rapidly, along with recognition of how social function is impacted by developmental disorders such as Autism. However, disorders of social cognition can look very different between diagnoses and between individuals.

Prof Allan Reiss (Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Stanford University School of Medicine) will be comparing social behavior in two common genetic disorders, Fragile X and William’s Syndrome.

Dr Jon Brock (Macquarie University) will be discussing the complexity of impairments in social cognition in Autism, leading to significant heterogeneities between individuals despite sharing the same diagnosis.

When: Monday 17 March, 4 – 5 pm with refreshments afterwards (note this is a later date than has been previously advertised)

Where: Black Dog Institute Lecture Theatre, Hospital Road, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick

Seminar: Neural correlates of sensory subtypes in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Update: Professor Lane will also be presenting at the Brain and Mind Research Institute at Sydney University the day before (Thursday 27th). 11.30-12:30 in the Level 5 Boardroom, 94 Mallett Street Camperdown. For more details, contact Lisa Whittle. Tel: +61 2 9114 4104. Email:

Associate Professor Alison Lane from Newcastle University will be presenting on Neural correlates of sensory subtypes in Autism Spectrum Disorder at Macquarie University on Friday 28th February at 3pm. Earlier in the afternoon, we have two further presentations which may also be of interest. All are welcome.

Location: Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, Room 3.610, Macquarie University. Directions

12-1pm: Dr Joana Cholin
Syllables in Speech Production: Storage versus Computation

2-3pm: Professor Wendy Best
Therapy with children with word-finding difficulties: use of a cueing aid and a comparison between interventions

3-4pm: Assoc Prof Alison Lane


Presentation by Professor David Skuse

David Skuse (3)Professor David Skuse is Chair of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the Institute of Child Health, University College London and Honorary Consultant in Developmental Neuropsychiatry at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, UK.

Title: Do brain hormones influence our social behaviour? If so, how – and why is it so important?

When: Friday 24th January 2014, 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Where: Black Dog Institute Lecture Theatre – google maps location 

For more information, please contact Janett Baker on 9616 4205 or email