A neurocognitive approach to the Self in Autism Spectrum Disorder

01 November 2019 → 31 October 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
No data available
Autism Spectrum Disorder Self-processing Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Multi-Voxel Pattern Analysis Representational Similarity Analysis
Project description

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by social difficulties. Research trying to explain these difficulties has focused mostly on problems with understanding others, but there are indications that the ‘sense of self’ is also altered in ASD. For example, infants who later get an ASD diagnosis respond less when hearing their own name. Adults with ASD, although they have learned to respond, still show a much smaller brain response. In addition, research suggests that the self-bias (the tendency to learn/remember things better when they are self-relevant) is smaller or absent in ASD. Still, findings are mixed: not all aspects of self-processing seem altered. To date it has not been clarified how self-processing in ASD differs, nor which neural processes are involved. I will investigate the hypothesis that self-related information is equally prioritised by individuals with ASD as by non-autistic individuals (‘neurotypicals’), but using different neural pathways. Whereas neurotypicals use pathways specific to social processing, autistic individuals may learn to emphasize self-related information in a non-social way. To investigate this, I will use advanced neuroimaging techniques to look at brain activity of autistic and non-autistic individuals of different ages, while they are processing information about themselves or others. This will lead to a better understanding of the social difficulties autistic individuals suffer from.