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Alexithymia and Emotion Recognition in People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Review

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder involving social-communication deficits, and rigid and repetitive behaviours. Individuals with ASD also demonstrate emotion-processing deficits, such as difficulties recognizing their own or others’ emotions. There is evidence to suggest that co-occurring alexithymia, or difficulties recognizing emotions within oneself, and not ASD may account for these difficulties. This paper reviews the literature about alexithymia to better understand emotion recognition skills in ASD. Implications are discussed in terms of possible therapeutic interventions involving alexithymia, which may improve emotional and social outcomes among those with ASD. Written by Ruby Jamil, M.A., and  Anne-Marie DePape, Ph.D. This PDF article is available for download only.   Jamil and DePape – Alexithymia and Emotion Recognition in People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Review, 2017 PDF

Amygdala Engagement in Response to Subthreshold Presentations of Anxious Face Stimuli in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Preliminary Insights

Article: Amygdala Engagement in Response to Subthreshold Presentations of Anxious Face Stimuli in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Preliminary Insights.  This paper was published in 2010 by Geoffrey Hall and colleagues, included Krissy Doyle-Thomas in the journal PLoS One. This PDF article is available for download only. Abstract: Current theoretical models of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have proposed that impairments in the processing of social/emotional information may be linked to amygdala dysfunction. However, the extent to which amygdala functions are compromised in ASD has become a topic of debate in recent years. In a jittered functional magnetic resonance imaging study, sub-threshold presentations of anxious faces permitted an examination of amygdala recruitment in 12 high functioning adult males with ASD and 12 matched controls. We found heightened neural activation of the amygdala in both high functioning adults with ASD and matched controls. Neither the intensity nor the time-course of amygdala activation differed between the groups. However, the adults with ASD showed significantly lower levels of fusiform activation during the trials compared to controls. Our findings suggest that in ASD, the transmission of socially salient information along sub-cortical pathways is intact: and yet the signaling of this information to structures downstream may be impoverished, and the pathways that facilitate subsequent processing deficient.  Hall et al – Amygdala Engagement in Response to Subthreshold Presentations of Anxious Face Stimuli in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders Preliminary Insights 2010 PDF

Analyzing Code Red: Ten Years Later

This research briefing paper reviews the series of articles published in the Hamilton Spectator as part of the Code Red series and was written by Sydney Haagsma, Kimberly Huynh and Laura Shulist from Brain Disorders Management. This PDF article is available for download only.  Abstract:    The original Code Red series published in the Hamilton Spectator in 2010 started an important conversation about the health disparities in Hamilton, with a specific focus on social determinants of health. This series sparked interest in the general public and the Hamilton community by bringing forth issues in an accessible and impactful way. Despite its initial impact, the follow-up series called “Code Red: Ten Years Later” highlighted the progress made, or lack thereof, that was seen in the community in the ten years following the publication of the original series. Using a qualitative approach, this research briefing paper identified four themes from the Code Red series: 1) Complex and Cyclical Problems, 2) Hope and Resiliency of the Community, 3) Stigmatization in a Failing System, and 4) The Importance of Prevention. This research helps to evaluate both the positive and the negative changes that occurred in this ten-year time period and how these changes were perceived in the community.     Sydney Haagsma, Kimberly Huynh and Laura Shulist – Analyzing Code Red: Ten Years Later PDF  

Atypical Functional Brain Connectivity during Rest in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Article: Atypical Functional Brain Connectivity during Rest in Autism Spectrum Disorders. This paper was published in 2015 by Krissy Doyle-Thomas and colleagues in the journal Annals of Neurology. This PDF article is available for download only.  Abstract: Objective Connectivity atypicalities in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been extensively proposed. The default mode network (DMN) is critical in this study, given the insight it provides for long‐distance connectivity, and the importance of regions in this network for introspection and social emotion processing, areas affected in ASD. However, study of this network has largely been limited to adults; research earlier in development is lacking. The objective of this study was to examine DMN connectivity in children/adolescents with ASD.   Methods A total of 115 children/adolescents, aged 6 to 17 years (71 males with ASD and 44 group age‐matched TD males) were included in these analyses. We examined group differences in (1) functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex and regions across the brain, (2) connectivity within the DMN as a function of age and intelligence quotient (IQ), and (3) the association between DMN connectivity and empathic accuracy.  Results Individuals with ASD, relative to controls, showed either stronger or weaker connectivity between the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and DMN regions, depending on the region, but also showed stronger connectivity with non‐DMN regions. A significant group‐by‐age interaction was observed in functional connectivity between the PCC and medial prefrontal cortex; connectivity increased with age in controls, but decreased in individuals with ASD. No effects of IQ were found. There was a significant group difference in the relation between DMN [...]

Auditory Pitch Perception in Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Associated With Nonverbal Abilities

Article: Auditory Pitch Perception in Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Associated With Nonverbal Abilities. This paper was published in 2017 by Rakhee Chowdhury and colleagues, included Krissy Doyle-Thomas in the journal Perception.  Abstract: Atypical sensory perception and heterogeneous cognitive profiles are common features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, previous findings on auditory sensory processing in ASD are mixed. Accordingly, auditory perception and its relation to cognitive abilities in ASD remain poorly understood. Here, children with ASD, and age- and intelligence quotient (IQ)-matched typically developing children, were tested on a low- and a higher level pitch processing task. Verbal and nonverbal cognitive abilities were measured using the Wechsler’s Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. There were no group differences in performance on either auditory task or IQ measure. However, there was significant variability in performance on the auditory tasks in both groups that was predicted by nonverbal, not verbal skills. These results suggest that auditory perception is related to nonverbal reasoning rather than verbal abilities in ASD and typically developing children. In addition, these findings provide evidence for preserved pitch processing in school-age children with ASD with average IQ, supporting the idea that there may be a subgroup of individuals with ASD that do not present perceptual or cognitive difficulties. Future directions involve examining whether similar perceptual-cognitive relationships might be observed in a broader sample of individuals with ASD, such as those with language impairment or lower IQ.  Link: Auditory Pitch Perception in Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Associated With Nonverbal Abilities   Reference Information: Chowdhury R, Sharda M, Foster NEV, et al. Auditory [...]

Auditory Processing in High-Functioning Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder including abnormalities in perceptual processing. We measure perception in a battery of tests across speech (filtering, phoneme categorization, multisensory integration) and music (pitch memory, meter categorization, harmonic priming). We found that compared to controls, the ASD group showed poorer filtering, less audio-visual integration, less specialization for native phonemic and metrical categories, and a higher instance of absolute pitch. No group differences were found in harmonic priming. Our results are discussed in a developmental framework where culture-specific knowledge acquired early compared to late in development is most impaired, perhaps because of early-accelerated brain growth in ASD. These results suggest that early auditory remediation is needed for good communication and social functioning. This PDF article is available for download only.   DePape et al – Auditory Processing in High-Functioning Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2012 (b) PDF

Auditory-Motor Rhythm Synchronization in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Article: Auditory-Motor Rhythm Synchronization in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This paper was published in 2017 by Ana Tryfon and colleagues, included Krissy Doyle-Thomas in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Abstract: Background Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulties in social and communication skills as well as atypical sensory perception and motor skills. Sensorimotor abilities such as auditory-motor integration are essential for social interaction and communication. The goal of this research was to investigate the development of auditory-motor rhythm synchronization for the first time in ASD versus typically-developing (TD) children. Methods Participants were 31 boys with ASD and 23 TD boys that were matched in age and IQ. Participants were tested on an auditory-motor rhythm synchronization task in which they tapped in synchrony with rhythms of varying metrical complexity. Results Both children with ASD and TD performed similarly on this task and both groups performed better with age. Conclusions This work demonstrates that non-verbal rhythm synchronization is intact in ASD over the course of childhood development. This research serves to better understand sensorimotor interactions in ASD and to better define sensory phenotypes in ASD.  Link: Auditory-Motor Rhythm Synchronization in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Reference Information: Ana Tryfon, Nicholas E. Foster, Tia Ouimet, Krissy Doyle-Thomas, Evdokia Anagnostou, Megha Sharda, Krista L. Hyde, Auditory-motor rhythm synchronization in children with autism spectrum disorder, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Volume 35, 2017, 51-61.

Client and Family Engagement in Rehabilitation Research: a Framework for Health Care Organizations

Article: Client and Family Engagement in Rehabilitation Research: a Framework for Health Care Organizations. This paper was published in 2018 by James Anderson and colleagues, included Krissy Doyle-Thomas in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation. Abstract: Purpose: To describe the development and implementation of an organizational framework for client and family-centered research. Method: Case report. Results: While patient-centered care is now well established, patient-centered research remains underdeveloped. This is particularly true at the organizational level (e.g., hospital based research institutes). In this paper we describe the development of an organizational framework for client and family centered research at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Conclusion: It is our hope that, by sharing our framework other research institutions can learn from our experience and develop their own research patient/client/family engagement program Link: Client and Family Engagement in Rehabilitation Research: a Framework for Health Care Organizations  

Effects of Age and Attention on Auditory Global–Local Processing in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Article: Effects of Age and Attention on Auditory Global–Local Processing in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This paper was published in 2016 by Nicholas Foster and colleagues, included Krissy Doyle-Thomas in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  Abstract: In vision, typically-developing (TD) individuals perceive “global” (whole) before “local” (detailed) features, whereas individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit a local bias. However, auditory global–local distinctions are less clear in ASD, particularly in terms of age and attention effects. To these aims, here ASD and TD children judged local and global pitch structure in nine-tone melodies. Both groups showed a similar global precedence effect, but ASD children were less sensitive to global interference than TD children at younger ages. There was no effect of attention task. These findings provide novel evidence of developmental differences in auditory perception and may help to refine sensory phenotypes in ASD.  Link: Effects of Age and Attention on Auditory Global–Local Processing in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Reference Information: Foster, N.E.V., Ouimet, T., Tryfon, A. et al. Effects of Age and Attention on Auditory Global–Local Processing in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 1415–1428 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2684-2

Effects of Age and Symptomatology on Cortical Thickness in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Article: Effects of Age and Symptomatology on Cortical Thickness in Autism Spectrum Disorders. This paper was published in 2013 by Krissy Doyle-Thomas and colleagues in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. This PDF article is available for download only. Abstract: Several brain regions show structural and functional abnormalities in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the developmental trajectory of abnormalities in these structures and how they may relate to social and communicative impairments are still unclear. We assessed the effects of age on cortical thickness in individuals with ASD, between the ages of 7 and 39 years in comparison to typically developing controls. Additionally, we examined differences in cortical thickness in relation to symptomatology in the ASD group, and their association with age. Analyses were conducted using a general linear model, controlling for sex. Social and communication scores from the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) were correlated with the thickness of regions implicated in those functions. Controls showed widespread cortical thinning relative to the ASD group. Within regions-of-interest, increased thickness in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex was associated with poorer social scores. Additionally, a significant interaction between age and social impairment was found in the orbitofrontal cortex, with more impaired younger children having decreased thickness in this region. These results suggest that differential neurodevelopmental trajectories are present in individuals with ASD and some differences are associated with diagnostic behaviours.  Doyle-Thomas et al – Effects of Age and Symptomatology on Cortical Thickness in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2013 PDF 

Employee Wellness Program Comparisons Among Private Companies

This research briefing paper reviews employee wellness programs at private companies and was written by Sammi Amir, Miriam Archibong, Paige Corbett, Emily Holden and Maryanne Piacente from Brain Disorders Management. This PDF article is available for download only. Abstract: Wellness programs embedded in companies are beginning to be implemented to improve employees overall wellbeing and promote a healthier workplace. The benefits a company can have from a wellness program include increased employee productivity as well as morale, which overall can decrease sick rates (Sabharwal et al., 2019). Wellness programs can improve employee productivity, for both employees who are living with chronic illnesses (e.g., obesity and diabetes) and employees without any health issues (Gubler et al., 2018). It is difficult to implement an effective wellness program as there is not a concrete definition of wellness, and therefore providing an effective wellness program for a company that does not lose them money can have its challenges. The research question being analyzing is: What can you conclude from the wellness programs of private companies? Based on the successes and the challenges at these companies, propose a wellness program that is rooted in evidence-based practice. Amir et al – Employee Wellness Program Comparisons Among Private Companies, 2021 PDF

Employee Wellness: Addressing Physician Burnout

This presentation was created by students in Brain Disorders Management, Hanifa Hasan, Mikaela Frankovich-Ross and Fathima Mohammed as part of their coursework for Management and Treatment of Brain Disorders. The purpose of this presentation is to identify a gap in the field of brain disorders and provide a recommendation to address this gap through the use of a program, technology or policy. Addressing Physician Burnout Presentation Download