Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Ricarda Braukmann (Donders series 290)


Promotors: Prof. H. Bekkering, Prof. J.. Buitelaar
Copromotors: Dr. S. Hunnius

Social-Cognitive Processing and Familial Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

The research described in this thesis was part of the Zebra-project (Zusjes En BRoertjes van kinderen met Autisme, Sisters And Brothers of Children with Autism) and assessed different aspects of social cognition in infants at high and low risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The first chapter investigated the neural processing of social stimuli in high- and low-risk infants. The remainder assessed the development of action prediction in high and low-risk infants (Chapter 2 and 3) as well as the neural mechanisms underlying action prediction in typically-developing individuals (Chapter 4). It was found that infants at high risk for ASD showed differences from low-risk controls in the neural processing of social stimuli at 5 months of age. The behavioral assessment of action prediction, on the other hand, did not reveal any group differences, rather suggesting typical action prediction abilities at 10 and 14 months of age. Taken together, this thesis provides preliminary evidence for typical and atypical aspects of social cognition in young infants at high risk for ASD. Future assessments of the cohort followed in this thesis will be crucial to further evaluate the findings and establish how they relate to a potential later ASD diagnosis of the participants.