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

Seminar: Eye Movements in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

vb1.jpg_SIA - JPG - Fit to Width_144_trueSpeaker : Val Benson, University of Southamptom

Date : 22nd of November 2013, 2:00PM until 3:00PM

Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

All welcome

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term encompassing a range of developmental conditions principally characterised by impairments in social interaction, communication and cognitive flexibility. It remains unclear to what extent any social or cognitive difficulties experienced by people with ASD result from differences in sampling the environment, or differences in interpreting the information sampled, or both. In addition, perceptual and attentional atypicalities are observed in the disorder. Our current experiments have used eye-tracking methodology to explore these issues. Evidence from collaborative investigations on low-level eye-movement characteristics; perception of complex stimuli; and processing of and attention to social information suggests that simple information processing requirements across the different processing domains are intact in ASD, whereas more complex information processing requirements within the same processing domain are impaired. We emphasise the importance of using subtle eye movement metrics as a way of illustrating these group processing differences and explain how these findings link to contemporary theoretical accounts of autism.

Science in the holidays

It’s school holiday time in New South Wales, so take a look at some of the ongoing autism research projects taking place in Sydney.

Study of language and cognition in autism

Location: Macquarie University.
Looking for: 5- to 12-year-olds

Talking brains: A study of speech production in autism

Location: Macquarie University.
Looking for: 8- to 16-year-olds

Emotion regulation and empathy in children with autism

Location: Sydney University
Looking for: 5- to 9-year-olds

Speech development in children with an autism spectrum disorder

Location: Sydney University (or at home)
Looking for: 2- to 6-year-olds

If that isn’t enough, check out the Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) webpage for more opportunities to participate in research

Talking Brains: A study of speech production in autism

Our robots are ready for the challenge. Are you?
Our robots are ready for the challenge. Are you?

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

Participants: English-speaking kids aged 8 to 16 years old

Project description: In this study, we are investigating how children choose the right words to say and the extent to which they use the left or right side of their brain to do this. We’re also interested in word production difficulties faced by some children with autism.

Children play a computer game (against a friendly robot) in which they have to name pictures on a computer screen as quickly as possible. While they do this, we measure the tiny magnetic fields produced by their brains. This is completely safe and non-invasive.

We also get the kids to complete some simple tests of language and reasoning skills.

The study takes place in our new labs at the Australian Hearing Hub on the Macquarie University campus. Altogether, it takes around 2 hours to complete. We pay $40 for each child and can arrange free parking.

Interested? Please email Shu Yau at or ring 9850 2991


Speech development in children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Does your child have an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

We are conducting a longitudinal study evaluating the speech development of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is involved?

  • Children will be assessed at the University of Sydney or in their own homes
  • Assessments will take 2 hours
  • Speech and language assessments will be completed
  • Assessments will be done initially and then following 3, 6, 9, and 12 months
  • A detailed assessment report will be provided free of charge

Who can be involved?

  • Children aged 2-6 years who have been diagnosed with an ASD
  • Children who are not yet attending formal full-time schooling
  • Children who are producing some verbal sounds or words to communicate
  • Children with English as their primary language and the primary language of at least one parent

Who do I contact?

If you would like more information regarding this study please contact:

  • Kate Broome:  0420 757 458
  • Dr. Tricia McCabe:  (02) 9351 9747