Psychology professors Natalie Russo and Michael Kalish (pictured, left to right), have been awarded a grant from the United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation for their project, “The development of inferred perception in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” They will work with colleague Batsheva Hadad from the University of Haifa Israel to explore mechanisms that underlie perceptual differences in autism and how these change over the course of childhood. In addition, they hope to translate these findings into objective measurements of sensory symptoms for autism.
Autistic individuals demonstrate differences in the way that they encode sensory information such as sights, sounds and touch compared to non-autistic peers. These differences are referred to as perceptual in nature and are considered important to the understanding of autism as they have been found to predict ASD diagnoses in infants at elevated likelihood of the disorder.
The team seeks to understand the nature of these perceptual differences and to develop a framework for systematically testing different accounts of atypical perception among autistic and typically developing children of the same age and cognitive abilities.
In this grant, they will test 80 children with an ASD and 80 typically developing children between the ages of 7 and 12 years on different visual and auditory tasks presented on a computer. These tasks will ask participants to do different things such as respond with which of two pairs of tones were separated by a longer interval, or will ask participants to determine which of two rectangles presented simultaneously is wider. By examining different aspects of the responses, they can test different theoretical accounts of autistic perception.
The U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) promotes scientific relations between the U.S. and Israel by supporting collaborative research projects in a wide range of basic and applied scientific fields, for peaceful and non-profit purposes. Funding for the research comes from the annual interest on an endowment contributed in equal parts by the two countries.