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).

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.

Seminar from Sander Begeer: Training theory of mind in autism

On 30th October, Sander Begeer is giving a seminar on “Training Theory of Mind in Autism” at the Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University.

Speaker : Sander Begeer, School of Psychology, University of Sydney.

Date : 30th of October 2012, 4:00PM until 5:30PM

Location : Palermo Room,  C5C498, Macquarie University

Deviant perspective taking or Theory of Mind (ToM) skills are a central feature of autism. However, the literature is unclear about specific strengths and weaknesses of individuals with autism. This is partly due to the way ToM is measured. Moreover, many treatments for children with autism involve attempts to ‘train’ ToM skills, while the evidence base for these treatments is generally poor. In the current presentation, the effects of training ToM in children with autism will be discussed, with specific regard to passive or active social interaction styles of the children. The difference between conceptual and applied ToM skills is highlighted, and the question is raised whether ToM is a proclivity, rather than a capacity. Bio: Sander Begeer is a postdoctoral fellow, working on University of Sydney Postdoctoral Research and Endeavour Award Research Fellowships. His research focus is on autism, empathy and social emotional development. He is involved in various projects that highlight the assessment of social emotional problems in autism, the effect of treatment for some of these problems (Theory of Mind and emotion regulation), and the assessment of autism in ethnic minorities.

Autism workshop and public lecture, 5th December at Macquarie University

 

On Wednesday 5th December, Macquarie University is hosting a free autism research day.

From 2pm until 6pm will be a workshop featuring short presentations from researchers from around Australia on the topic of “What is Autism?” The workshop will also feature a presentation from a young man with Asperger syndrome, and an open discussion of forthcoming changes to autism diagnostic criteria.

Then from 6pm, there will be a public lecture from Prof Kevin Pelphrey of Yale University entitled “Searching for autism in the social brain”.

Although the events are free, registration is essential.

For details and registration, please follow this link.

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 Shu Yau (02 9850 1582) or email shu.yau@mq.edu.au

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Study of language and cognition in autism

We are looking for children diagnosed with autism between the ages of 5 to 12 for participating in research concerning cognitive and language abilities. The study focuses on how children understand and use pronouns (e.g. he, she) and articles (a, the)

The study will take place at Macquarie University and you will receive a $20(Coles/Myer card) in appreciation of your time. Children will receive stickers for participation.

For more information, please contact neha.khetrapal@mq.edu.au

The ethical aspects of this study have been approved by the Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee.