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).

Emotion Regulation and Empathy in Children with Autism

Help us to understand why children with autism find it difficult to respond to other’s emotions with empathy and gain a greater understanding of your child’s emotional development

The study involves observing children’s behavioural responses to everyday positive and negative emotional situations. For example, a young child showing happiness while playing with a toy, or a child who is upset on his first day of school (presented as videos)

We are looking for children with an Autism Spectrum diagnosis between 5 and 9 years of age who have normal or high IQ (high-functioning)

The study takes approximately 45 minutes

If you are interested in participating in this study or want any further information please contact Elian.

Phone: 9351 3494 Email:


Presentation on fetal testosterone, autism, and language impairment

hollier_laurenThis Friday at 10am, Lauren Hollier from the University of Western Australia will be presenting  her PhD research, which looks at the effects of testosterone levels in the womb on later language development. Lauren’s presentation is in the new Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University. All are welcome.


Finding the right words: A study of language production in autism

Can you beat our robot team in the picture naming game?

We’re looking for kids with autism as well as typically developing kids to take part in our research over the next few weeks.

Language difficulties affect many children with autism. But while there is a lot of research on language comprehension, surprisingly little is known about the production of language. We know there is huge variation: from kids who never speak or come very late to speech, to those who are precocious talkers, despite having difficulties with conversational skills or nonverbal communication. We need to understand the diversity within autism as well as the differences between children with and without autism.

In this study, we are using a simple picture naming test. Children are shown a series of pictures on a computer screen and are asked to name them as quickly as possible.

We’re interested in two main questions: Do some children with autism have particular difficulty choosing between words with similar meanings? And do some children with autism rely more on the right side of their brain for producing language?

The study takes around 90 minutes to complete. We pay $30 for each child.

Optionally, you can also take part in another 30 minute study looking at children’s ability to use pronouns (words like “he”, “you” and “I” that children with autism often struggle to make sense of).

If you’d like your child to take part, please ring Shu Yau (0298502991) or email


Last call for participants: How do the brains of children with and without autism make sense of sounds?

Our brain imaging lab is about to close for a couple of months so we’re trying to test as many kids as possible in the next couple of weeks. 

We’re especially looking for typically developing (non-autistic) children aged 7 to 13 years to compare with the kids with autism who we’ve already tested. So please pass this message on to people you know who have kids in this age range.

We can test after school and at weekends.

Thanks for your help!


How do autistic kids’ brains make sense of sounds?

We’re looking for kids with autism as well as typically developing kids to take part in our research over the next few weeks.

In a recent study, we found that autistic kids had unusual brain responses to certain sounds. We’re now conducting a follow-up study to see how consistent these findings are across different kids – and whether they relate to everyday problems with sensitivity to sounds.

As in our original study, we are using a technique known as magnetoencephalography or MEG for short. MEG works by measuring the tiny magnetic signals produced by neurons in the brain. It will tell us which parts of the kids’ brains are responding, how quickly, and how sensitive they are to subtle changes in the sounds they are hearing.

It involves absolutely no physical risks. Kids get to go in a “space rocket”, watch a movie of their choice – and get paid!

If you’d like your child to take part, please ring Jon Brock (02 9850 6869) or email


Webinar on autism diagnosis and DSM-5 from the Olga Tennison Autism Centre

In October 2012, The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) held a successful forum on the Changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to a full house.

The fifth edition of the DSM to be published in 2013, introduces significant changes to current diagnostic definitions of Autism and related conditions.

Many people are wondering:

  • Will changes to the DSM mean some people’s condition will be missed?
  • Do these changes improve future diagnoses?
  • What are experts concerned about?

Due to popular demand we will be holding a free webinar on this same topic. The DSM-5 webinar is open to all interested people, including professionals and families.

Date and Time: Wednesday, 13th February, 10.00AM to 11.30.00AM


Japanese autism research seminar at Macquarie University

Thursday 24th of January 2013, 11-1pm

The Australian Hearing Hub Meeting, Room 3.610, South Wing, Macquarie University

  • Introduction of the mission and program of Hokuriku Innovation Cluster for Health Science (HICHS)
  • Early diagnosis system of pervasive developmental disorders in young children
  • Brain activity and related network during moral judgment in autism -MEG study-
  • GPCRs play important roles in social behavior


Seminar from Liz Pellicano – Explaining altered sensation and perception in autism

Speaker : Liz Pellicano, Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) & Department of Psychology and Human Development , Institute of Education, University of London.
Date : 4th of December 2012, 4:00PM until 5:30PM
Location : C5C498 – Palermo Room, Macquarie University.

Autism is most well known for the way that it affects how a person interacts and communicates with others. But autism can affect behavior in other important and debilitating ways, such as in an intense desire for sameness and in sensory systems that work too well or not well enough. Researchers have largely overlooked these so-called sensory symptoms but their prominence in forthcoming diagnostic criteria calls for systematic investigation and explanation. In this talk, I suggest that the sensory and other non-social symptoms in autism might be caused by important differences in what an autistic person expects about incoming sensory signals and therefore how they interpret their significance. Within a Bayesian framework, I suggest that attenuated Bayesian priors – hypo-priors – may be responsible for the unique perceptual experience of autistic people, leading to a tendency to perceive the world more accurately rather than modulated by prior experience. I further consider how hypo-priors could help explain the range and idiosyncrasy of sensory sensitivities and their difficulties dealing with new experiences.