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Abnormal Psychology - Autism Study Notes.docx

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McMaster University
Richard B Day

Abnormal Psychology- Autism Study Notes Symptoms: • Hyperactivity, impulsivity, short • Interested in limited amount of things attention span • High tolerance for pain • Arranging objects in same way again and again • Highly sensitive to stimuli • Insists on same routine everyday • Sleep disturbances • Stereotypes, ritualistic movements • Abnormal eating: restricted diet; pica • Don’t make-believe/imitate play – • Abnormal mood/affect: inappropriate lack of social interaction with others crying/giggling/flat affect (robotic) • GI difficulties • Gain problems • Problems with rapid alternating movements • Other symptoms: Prevalence: All under 1%, but has increased from 1994-2007 Volkmar’s Estimate: 35/10,000 Highest group was PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder NOS) Smallest = Asperger’s Very big range of prevalence today- no certain idea Not that frequency is increasing (even though more cases today) – depends on diagnostic labels given - 75% also meet criteria for mental retardation (dominant diagnosis) - Today, we know more about autism, more likely to correctly detect + give diagnosis for - Only appears like numbers have increased Epidemiology • More common in BOYS (4-5x) • Males more likely to still have normal cognitive function • Females (are less prone) - more likely to have extreme, low cognitive functioning Comorbidity • Majority comorbid for at least one other disorder (70%) • 40% comorbid for anxiety/phobic disorders • 40% for ADHD • 30% for ODD Etiology • General deficit in intellect • Language and abstract reasoning = primary deficit o Difficulty understanding jokes/sarcasm o Better with concrete concepts • Normal: visuo-spatial processing, attention to detail and rote memory • Savant Abilities: especially in math (rapid calculation), music and calendar calculations o Mostly people on lower functioning end of spectrum o Normal brains shut down abilities to feed other abilities – might take an autistic/mentally challenged brain to have these special abilities Motor Development Problems • Dysdiadochokinesia (problems with rapid alternating movements), gait/balance/abnormal muscle tone, reflexes and motor coordination Theory of Mind • Unable to understand mental states/emotions/intentions of others • Smarties test- box of smarties, replace with pencil and ask what others will think is in the box – they will say pencils • Criticisms of ToM: o Doesn’t apply to infants not being able to conform body to caregivers  No one has ToM at that age o Social deficiencies before ToM develops o Higher functioning spectrum – have ToM but still show deficits o ToM deficits in mental retardation also, not specific to autism Weak Central Coherence (WCC): • Prefer local to global processing o They see it as individual parts, not whole picture o Do well on embedded figures task (i.e. where’s Waldo) o Do well on Navon letters task (big letters made up of small letters) – Autism would be better at naming small letter o Explains problems with face recognition  BUT depends on how you run task  If you switch task between small and large letters, show deficits  If you keep task consistent – no deficit  Only reliable results seen with facial recognition Face and Emotional Perception • Sort faces by physical features, not overall face • ERP differences for familiar/unfamiliar objects, not faces (i.e. mother vs. stranger) • Brain areas activated for faces: o Normal: frontal lobes, amygdala, fusiform gyrus o Autism: superior temporal gyrus  Recognizes faces as objects Executive Functions Attention Focuses attention on small variety of things Slower to shift attention to something else Planning Not good at planning and coordinating - Tower of Hanoi (stacking disks based on rule- requires planning ahead) Set Shifting (mental flexibility) Preservative sorting errors (errors when given different rule of sorting to follow) - Wisconsin Card Sorting Task - I.e. first sort by colour, then asked to sort by shape will continue sorting by colour Response Inhibition Errors on Stroop Task (colour vs word) - Typical: tend to read word regardless of colour - Autism: have more trouble doing this than normal individuals ToM and Executive Functions (EF) • EF required for ToM to develop • ToM require for EF to develop • Overlap between ToM and EF brain areas • Deficiencies in processing social information • Normal: look at eyes when person speaks – Autism: eyes wonder all over the place Autism = Extreme Male Brain Theory Systematizers: (usually males- weak on empathy) – identifying/understanding rules that govern a system • Explains social disability in autism: lack of empathy • Explains savants: math, music • Explains ritualistic behaviour: predictable, systematic Empathizers: (usually females- weak on systematizing) recognizing feelings of others and responding Extreme Male Brain Cont’d Assortive mating between systematizers - Parents of autistic children are faster on embedded figures tests - More likely to have systemating fathers (i.e. engineers) - Both parents of autis
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