I promise I have been working during the last year, despite the scarcity of news updates! One exciting new thing to share is that I've just had a new paper accepted for publication, with my amazing thesis student/research assistant Azilee Curl. This is a secondary analysis of a prior EEG dataset in which we looked at EEG coherence as an estimate of brain connectivity during semantic processing of words and pictures. Coherence is a unique connectivity metric because it retains the temporal resolution of EEG so can really give a sense of the dynamic changes going on in neural communication. We found that individuals with ASD show reduced neural communication between left frontal and parietal brain areas only during semantic processing of words -- not pictures. But what was really interesting was the time window: this reduced connectivity was incredibly early, 100-300 ms after stimulus presentation! This suggests that it's really early communication between linguistic and semantic processing regions that might be contributing to difficulties with semantic processing of language in ASD. Stay tuned for a link to the open-access paper on my Publications page!
My excellent colleague Neil Cohn and I have had another paper accepted for publication at Scientific Reports! Entitled "Predictability modulates neurocognitivesemantic processing of non-verbal narratives", this paper shows that visual narratives (i.e. comic strips) show similar modulations of the N400 amplitude by cloze rating as language does. It's well established that more predictable words in sentences elicit smaller N400 amplitudes than less predictable words, suggesting that predictability can help facilitate semantic processing. However, no one had extended this to visual narratives before. We show for the first time that visual narratives show the same type of modulation by predictability, adding more evidence to the idea that visual and linguistic narrative processing rely on similar domain-general cognitive mechanisms. Keep an eye on my Publications page, I'll post a link to the full-text article when it's available!
I'll be presenting at two conferences this spring!
The first is the inaugural Meeting on Language in Autism (MoLA) (http://mola2020.org/), being held March 13-14 in Durham, NC, at which I'll be presenting a talk titled "Predictive abilities during sentence comprehension in individuals with autism spectrum disorders", co-authored by Trevor Brothers and Neil Cohn. This is very interesting work looking at the effects of prediction and cloze probability during language processing in autism. I'm so excited to be attending this new conference; thank you to the organizers!
Immediately following MoLA I'll be traveling to Boston for the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, at which I'll be presenting a poster titled "Alpha suppression increases during situation model construction: Neural evidence for the structure building framework", co-authored with Neil Cohn. This is an exploratory but exciting project looking at EEG power in the alpha frequency band as a measure of attentional control and tying it to the theoretical cognitive mechanism of suppression during narrative comprehension, as proposed by Gernsbacher's Structure Building Framework.
If you'll be attending either of these conferences, stop by to say hello!
I am elated to report that our manuscript, "Implicit Measures of Receptive Vocabulary Knowledge in Individuals with Level 3 Autism", has been accepted for publication in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology! It has been quite a journey getting this paper published but I am extremely proud of it: we report on the use of eye movement monitoring, pupillary dilation, and event-related potentials as implicit ways of assessing receptive vocabulary knowledge in individuals with severe (Level 3) autism. It is commonly very challenging to estimate language abilities in these individuals because their behavioral performance is often unreliable. However, we suggest that these three measures might be able to provide estimates of vocabulary knowledge even in the absence of overt responses. This paper also marks my first publication on data collected from individuals with severe autism: a population that is very difficult to test and drastically under-represented in the literature, but crucial for understanding the nature of cognitive functioning in autism. More details to come soon!
Our manuscript, "Visual and linguistic narrative comprehension in autism spectrum disorders: Neural evidence for modality-independent impairments", has been accepted for publication in Brain and Language! many thanks to my fantastic colleagues, and especially Dr. Neil Cohn, for all of their hard work, More information, and a link to the in-press article, coming soon to the Publications page.
I'm happy to announce that I, along with my undergraduate student Elizabeth O'Donnell and my colleague Neil Cohn, will be presenting some preliminary work on visual narratives in individuals with ASD in a symposium at this summer's Cognitive Science Society in Madison, Wisconsin. The full symposium is titled "The cognitive systems of visual and multimodal narratives." Our paper is titled "The Roles of Semantic Relatedness and Narrative Structure in Narrative Comprehension in Individuals with ASD," and investigates semantic and syntactic processing of visual narratives in individuals with ASD.
I'm happy to announce that my article in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, "A semantic priming event-related potential (ERP) task to study lexico-semantic and visuo-semantic processing in autism spectrum disorder," has been published and the video is available for viewing! The video, and corresponding manuscript, are available here: http://www.jove.com/video/57217. Also a special thanks to my Research Assistant, Emme O'Rourke, for demonstrating the equipment! Enjoy!
I'm pleased to announce that my manuscript, "A semantic priming event-related potential (ERP) task to study lexico-semantic and visuo-semantic processing in autism spectrum disorder", has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Visualized Experiments! Check back at the Publications page soon for DOI information. This journal also includes a video article with the publication, so more information about that will be coming soon!
I'm pleased to announce that I've been awarded the Early Extra Promotion of Research & Scholarly Success (EXPRESS) award from the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Vermont! This is a small research grant that will help support studies I'm currently running on visual narrative comprehension in individuals with ASD.
I have a new study that you can participate in online! This is a collaboration with Neil Cohn at Tilburg University and Tom Foulsham at the University of Essex. The study looks at how people understand comics, and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Click here to participate!