social communication
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Autism ◽  
2022 ◽  
pp. 136236132110689
Nisha Narvekar ◽  
Virginia Carter Leno ◽  
Greg Pasco ◽  
Mark H Johnson ◽  
Emily JH Jones ◽  

Autism is diagnosed based on social and communication difficulties, restricted and repetitive behaviours and sensory anomalies. Existing evidence indicates that anxiety and atypical sensory features are associated with restricted and repetitive behaviours, but cannot clarify the order of emergence of these traits. This study uses data from a prospective longitudinal study of infants with and without a family history of autism ( N = 247; Elevated Likelihood N = 170 and Typical Likelihood N = 77). Longitudinal cross-lag models tested bidirectional pathways between parent-rated infant fear/shyness and perceptual sensitivity at 8, 14 and 24 months, and associations between these domains and parent-rated restricted and repetitive behaviours and social communication scores at 36 months. In addition to within-domain continuity, higher levels of fear/shyness at 14 months were associated with higher levels of perceptual sensitivity at 24 months. Higher levels of both fear/shyness and perceptual sensitivity at 24 months were associated with greater restricted and repetitive behaviours and social communication scores at 36 months. Results demonstrate the directionality of developmental pathways between fear/shyness and perceptual sensitivity in infancy and toddlerhood, but question theories that argue that these domains specifically underlie restricted and repetitive behaviours rather than autism. Identifying how early emerging anxiety and sensory behaviours relate to later autism is important for understanding pathways and developing targeted support for autistic children. Lay abstract Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours are central to the diagnosis of autism and can have profound effects on daily activities and quality of life. These challenges are also linked to other co-occurring conditions such as anxiety and sensory sensitivities. Here, we looked at whether early emerging signs of anxiety and sensory problems appear before symptoms of autism by studying infants with a family history of autism, as these infants are more likely to develop autism themselves. Studying infant siblings provides an opportunity for researchers to focus on early developmental markers of autism as these infants can be followed from birth. This study found that early infant signs of anxiety (e.g. fear/shyness) predicted later perceptual sensitivity, and those infants who scored higher on fear/shyness and sensitivity were more likely to experience more persistent repetitive behaviours, but also social and communication difficulties in toddlerhood. Early signs of anxiety and perceptual sensitivity may thus relate to both later social difficulties and repetitive behaviours. These findings support the importance of further research exploring the causal links between these domains in relation to autism, resulting in increased understanding of children who go onto develop autism in the future and guiding early interventions and supports.

2022 ◽  
Vol 14 (1) ◽  
Joshua Glauser ◽  
Carol L. Wilkinson ◽  
Laurel J. Gabard-Durnam ◽  
Boin Choi ◽  
Helen Tager-Flusberg ◽  

Abstract Background Differences in face processing in individuals with ASD is hypothesized to impact the development of social communication skills. This study aimed to characterize the neural correlates of face processing in 12-month-old infants at familial risk of developing ASD by (1) comparing face-sensitive event-related potentials (ERP) (Nc, N290, P400) between high-familial-risk infants who develop ASD (HR-ASD), high-familial-risk infants without ASD (HR-NoASD), and low-familial-risk infants (LR), and (2) evaluating how face-sensitive ERP components are associated with development of social communication skills. Methods 12-month-old infants participated in a study in which they were presented with alternating images of their mother’s face and the face of a stranger (LR = 45, HR-NoASD = 41, HR-ASD = 24) as EEG data were collected. Parent-reported and laboratory-observed social communication measures were obtained at 12 and 18 months. Group differences in ERP responses were evaluated using ANOVA, and multiple linear regressions were conducted with maternal education and outcome groups as covariates to assess relationships between ERP and behavioral measures. Results For each of the ERP components (Nc [negative-central], N290, and P400), the amplitude difference between mother and stranger (Mother-Stranger) trials was not statistically different between the three outcome groups (Nc p = 0.72, N290 p = 0.88, P400 p = 0.91). Marginal effects analyses found that within the LR group, a greater Nc Mother-Stranger response was associated with better expressive language skills on the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, controlling for maternal education and outcome group effects (marginal effects dy/dx = 1.15; p < 0.01). No significant associations were observed between the Nc and language or social measures in HR-NoASD or HR-ASD groups. In contrast, specific to the HR-ASD group, amplitude difference between the Mother versus Stranger P400 response was positively associated with expressive (dy/dx = 2.1, p < 0.001) and receptive language skills at 12 months (dy/dx = 1.68, p < 0.005), and negatively associated with social affect scores on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (dy/dx = − 1.22, p < 0.001) at 18 months. Conclusions In 12-month-old infant siblings with subsequent ASD, increased P400 response to Mother over Stranger faces is positively associated with concurrent language and future social skills.

2022 ◽  
pp. 167-181
Emily Kircher-Morris

2022 ◽  
Vol 15 ◽  
Megan R. Warren ◽  
Drayson Campbell ◽  
Amélie M. Borie ◽  
Charles L. Ford ◽  
Ammar M. Dharani ◽  

Impairments in social communication are common among neurodevelopmental disorders. While traditional animal models have advanced our understanding of the physiological and pathological development of social behavior, they do not recapitulate some aspects where social communication is essential, such as biparental care and the ability to form long-lasting social bonds. Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) have emerged as a valuable rodent model in social neuroscience because they naturally display these behaviors. Nonetheless, the role of vocalizations in prairie vole social communication remains unclear. Here, we studied the ontogeny [from postnatal days (P) 8–16] of prairie vole pup ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), both when isolated and when the mother was present but physically unattainable. In contrast to other similarly sized rodents such as mice, prairie vole pups of all ages produced isolation USVs with a relatively low fundamental frequency between 22 and 50 kHz, often with strong harmonic structure. Males consistently emitted vocalizations with a lower frequency than females. With age, pups vocalized less, and the acoustic features of vocalizations (e.g., duration and bandwidth) became more stereotyped. Manipulating an isolated pup's social environment by introducing its mother significantly increased vocal production at older (P12–16) but not younger ages, when pups were likely unable to hear or see her. Our data provide the first indication of a maturation in social context-dependent vocal emission, which may facilitate more active acoustic communication. These results help lay a foundation for the use of prairie voles as a model organism to probe the role of early life experience in the development of social-vocal communication.

2022 ◽  
Vol 14 (1) ◽  
Rebecca Shaffer ◽  
Angela John Thurman ◽  
Lucienne Ronco ◽  
Diego Cadavid ◽  
Shane Raines ◽  

Abstract Background Social communication is a key area of difficulty in fragile X syndrome (FXS) and there are not yet adequate outcome measurement tools. Appropriate outcome measures for FXS have been identified as a key area of research interest in order to evaluate future therapeutic trials. The Brief Observation of Social Communication Change-Minimally Verbal (BOSCC-MV), an outcome measure with strong psychometrics developed for autism spectrum disorder, has promise as an outcome measure to assess social communication change with FXS participants. Methods We examined the BOSCC-MV via central coders in this multi-site-trial to assess its appropriateness for FXS. Eighteen minimally verbal males ages 3–12 years were enrolled and assessed on two consecutive days and 7 participants completed a third visit 6 months later. We examined test-retest reliability, inter-rater reliability, and both convergent and divergent validity with standard clinical measures including the Autism Diagnostic and Observation Schedule-2, Vineland 3, Social Responsiveness Scale, and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist. Results The BOSCC-MV in FXS demonstrated strong inter-rater and test-retest reliability, comparable to previous trials in idiopathic ASD. Strong convergent validity was found with Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 and Vineland-3. Divergent validity was demonstrated between BOSCC-MV and unrelated measures. Conclusions The BOSCC-MV shows promise as a FXS social communication outcome measure, warranting further large-scale evaluation.

BMC Biology ◽  
2022 ◽  
Vol 20 (1) ◽  
Jonas Håkansson ◽  
Weili Jiang ◽  
Qian Xue ◽  
Xudong Zheng ◽  
Ming Ding ◽  

Abstract Background Rodent ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are crucial to their social communication and a widely used translational tool for linking gene mutations to behavior. To maximize the causal interpretation of experimental treatments, we need to understand how neural control affects USV production. However, both the aerodynamics of USV production and its neural control remain poorly understood. Results Here, we test three intralaryngeal whistle mechanisms—the wall and alar edge impingement, and shallow cavity tone—by combining in vitro larynx physiology and individual-based 3D airway reconstructions with fluid dynamics simulations. Our results show that in the mouse and rat larynx, USVs are produced by a glottal jet impinging on the thyroid inner wall. Furthermore, we implemented an empirically based motor control model that predicts motor gesture trajectories of USV call types. Conclusions Our results identify wall impingement as the aerodynamic mechanism of USV production in rats and mice. Furthermore, our empirically based motor control model shows that both neural and anatomical components contribute to USV production, which suggests that changes in strain specific USVs or USV changes in disease models can result from both altered motor programs and laryngeal geometry. Our work provides a quantitative neuromechanical framework to evaluate the contributions of brain and body in shaping USVs and a first step in linking descending motor control to USV production.

Autism ◽  
2022 ◽  
pp. 136236132110644
Sarah R Edmunds ◽  
Kyle M Frost ◽  
R Chris Sheldrick ◽  
Alice Bravo ◽  
Diondra Straiton ◽  

Defining the central components of an intervention is critical for balancing fidelity with flexible implementation in both research settings and community practice. Implementation scientists distinguish an intervention’s essential components (thought to cause clinical change) and adaptable periphery (recommended, but not necessary). While implementing core components with fidelity may be essential for effectiveness, requiring fidelity to the adaptable periphery may stifle innovation critical for personalizing care and achieving successful community implementation. No systematic method exists for defining essential components a priori. We present the CORE (COmponents & Rationales for Effectiveness) Fidelity Method—a novel method for defining key components of evidence-based interventions—and apply it to a case example of reciprocal imitation teaching, a parent-implemented social communication intervention. The CORE Fidelity Method involves three steps: (1) gathering information from published and unpublished materials; (2) synthesizing information, including empirical and hypothesized causal explanations of component effectiveness; and (3) drafting a CORE model and ensuring its ongoing use in implementation efforts. Benefits of this method include: (1) ensuring alignment between intervention and fidelity materials; (2) clarifying the scope of the adaptable periphery to optimize implementation; and (3) hypothesizing—and later, empirically validating—the intervention’s active ingredients and their associated mechanisms of change. Lay abstract Interventions that support social communication include several “components,” or parts (e.g. strategies for working with children and families, targeting specific skills). Some of these components may be essential for the intervention to work, while others may be recommended or viewed as helpful but not necessary for the intervention to work. “Recommended” components are often described as “adaptable” because they can be changed to improve fit in different settings where interventions are offered or with different individuals. We need to understand which parts of an intervention are essential (and which are adaptable) when translating interventions from research to community settings, but it is challenging to do this before studying an intervention in the community. This article presents the CORE (COmponents & Rationales for Effectiveness) Fidelity Method—a new method for defining the essential components of evidence-based interventions—and applies it to a case example of Reciprocal Imitation Teaching, an intervention that parents are taught to deliver with their young children with social communication delays. The CORE Fidelity Method involves three steps: (1) gathering information from multiple sources; (2) integrating information from previous research and theory; and (3) drafting a CORE model for ongoing use. The benefits of using the CORE Fidelity Method may include: (1) improving consistency in intervention and research materials to help all providers emphasize the most important skills or strategies; (2) clarifying which parts of the intervention can be adapted; and (3) supporting future research that evaluates which intervention components work and how they work.

2022 ◽  
Vol 22 (1) ◽  
Matthew J. Silk ◽  
Simon Carrignon ◽  
R. Alexander Bentley ◽  
Nina H. Fefferman

Abstract Background Individual behavioural decisions are responses to a person’s perceived social norms that could be shaped by both their physical and social environment. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, these environments correspond to epidemiological risk from contacts and the social construction of risk by communication within networks of friends. Understanding the circumstances under which the influence of these different social networks can promote the acceptance of non-pharmaceutical interventions and consequently the adoption of protective behaviours is critical for guiding useful, practical public health messaging. Methods We explore how information from both physical contact and social communication layers of a multiplex network can contribute to flattening the epidemic curve in a community. Connections in the physical contact layer represent opportunities for transmission, while connections in the communication layer represent social interactions through which individuals may gain information, e.g. messaging friends. Results We show that maintaining focus on awareness of risk among each individual’s physical contacts promotes the greatest reduction in disease spread, but only when an individual is aware of the symptoms of a non-trivial proportion of their physical contacts (~ ≥ 20%). Information from the social communication layer without was less useful when these connections matched less well with physical contacts and contributed little in combination with accurate information from physical contacts. Conclusions We conclude that maintaining social focus on local outbreak status will allow individuals to structure their perceived social norms appropriately and respond more rapidly when risk increases. Finding ways to relay accurate local information from trusted community leaders could improve mitigation even where more intrusive/costly strategies, such as contact-tracing, are not possible.

2022 ◽  
Vol 13 (1) ◽  
Anita K. Chisholm ◽  
Kristina M. Haebich ◽  
Natalie A. Pride ◽  
Karin S. Walsh ◽  
Francesca Lami ◽  

Abstract Background Existing research has demonstrated elevated autistic behaviours in children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), but the autistic phenotype and its relationship to other neurodevelopmental manifestations of NF1 remains unclear. To address this gap, we performed detailed characterisation of autistic behaviours in children with NF1 and investigated their association with other common NF1 child characteristics. Methods Participants were drawn from a larger cross-sectional study examining autism in children with NF1. The population analysed in this study scored above threshold on the Social Responsiveness Scale-Second Edition (T-score ≥ 60; 51% larger cohort) and completed the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and/or the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition (ADOS-2). All participants underwent evaluation of their intellectual function, and behavioural data were collected via parent questionnaires. Results The study cohort comprised 68 children (3–15 years). Sixty-three per cent met the ADOS-2 ‘autism spectrum’ cut-off, and 34% exceeded the more stringent threshold for ‘autistic disorder’ on the ADI-R. Social communication symptoms were common and wide-ranging, while restricted and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) were most commonly characterised by ‘insistence on sameness’ (IS) behaviours such as circumscribed interests and difficulties with minor changes. Autistic behaviours were weakly correlated with hyperactive/impulsive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms but not with inattentive ADHD or other behavioural characteristics. Language and verbal IQ were weakly related to social communication behaviours but not to RRBs. Limitations Lack of genetic validation of NF1, no clinical diagnosis of autism, and a retrospective assessment of autistic behaviours in early childhood. Conclusions Findings provide strong support for elevated autistic behaviours in children with NF1. While these behaviours were relatively independent of other NF1 comorbidities, the importance of taking broader child characteristics into consideration when interpreting data from autism-specific measures in this population is highlighted. Social communication deficits appear similar to those observed in idiopathic autism and are coupled with a unique RRB profile comprising prominent IS behaviours. This autistic phenotype and its relationship to common NF1 comorbidities such as anxiety and executive dysfunction will be important to examine in future research. Current findings have important implications for the early identification of autism in NF1 and clinical management.

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