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An in-depth investigation of neurovisceral integration and regulation in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Despite an increased interest in the role of social stress in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by socio-communicative problems, disruptions in autonomic regulatory processes as well as their neural underpinnings remain poorly understood in ASD. Using a strong psychobiological framework (based on the Polyvagal Theory by Porges) and an extensive assessment protocol including neural (multimodal fMRI) and psychophysiological recordings of stress (heart rate variability and skin conductance), the current project aims to investigate the concurrent activation of cortical, brainstem and autonomic structures in children with ASD (boys and girls, aged 8-12 years).  Putative disruptions within these processes will be examined at (i) the trait level: to assess intrinsic neurovisceral integration, and (ii) the state level: to assess neurovisceral regulation during the processing of social cues such as eye-to-eye contact. In doing so, we will take the continuum of symptom severity within ASD into account. Together, the planned research will provide new insights in how neurovisceral (trait-like) integration and (state-like) regulation impacts adaptive social behavior in ASD, as well as enable the delineation of subgroups of individuals with ASD who show increased neurovisceral dysfunctions. This is particularly relevant given the ongoing search for diagnostic and treatment biomarkers within the heterogenous ASD population.

Date:1 Oct 2020 →  Today
Keywords:Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Autonomic regulation, Functional/effective brain connectivity
Disciplines:Behavioural neuroscience, Neuropsychology