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 

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:


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