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Functional Neuroimaging of Time Perception in Children with and without Autism
This study uses fMRI to examine whether children with autism experience time differently to children without autism. The adequate processing of temporal information is fundamental for a variety of cognitive, social and behavioral functions. There is some extant empirical, clinical and anecdotal evidence that individuals with autism reveal atypical perception and conditioning to temporal information and this impacts their daily function. As the neurological loci of the various components of the interval timing system (in the secs to mins range) are beginning to be revealed, this study seeks to identify where in the timing system any autistic anomaly resides.
Children with and without autism will first learn a duration discrimination task outside the scanner. Children are first trained (with feedback) to discriminate whether a picture appears on a computer screen for a ‘short’ (e.g., 1 s) or a ‘long’ (e.g., 4 s) time. Following this, children are presented with pictures that appear on the screen for different (intermediate) amounts of time (e.g., 2 & 3 s), and they need to respond more like ‘short’ or ‘long’, with no feedback provided. This task is adapted from the basic laboratory and we have already observed differences in autistic timing performance using this task (NA_00008974; see upload in 6.8 of application). Children will then complete the task inside the MR scanner. We will contrast activation on all duration discrimination trials with a control task involving color discrimination, and we will also perform parametric analyses on the contrast between different durations. All data will be de-identified before analysis.