The Bernier Lab’s newest publication focuses on early auditory perception and receptive language in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We used a speech learning task along with electroencephalogram (EEG) recording to learn more about how individuals with autism process speech sounds in the brain. This study showed us that while neurotypical kids show a decreased response only in the left hemisphere as words become more familiar, kids with autism show a decreased response across both hemisphere as they learn words. This effect was directly related to the autistic kids’ actual receptive language vocabulary. In other words, kids with autism who had better receptive language showed more decreased responses (in both hemispheres) as the new speech became more familiar.
Members for our team at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the University of Washington’s Bernier Lab showed up to support the 2018 Autism Speaks Walk at the Seattle Center and share information about the SFARI SPARK study! It was a great event, with a little sun and rain and lots of great contact with families. Thank you everyone for helping out and coming to say hi, even baby Chloe showed up to help!
The Bellevue College’s Autism Pre-Conference
By Curtis Eayrs Jr.
I attended Bellevue College’s Autistics Present pre-conference session at South Seattle College’s Georgetown campus on Saturday, August 25th. This pre-conference was created entirely by local autistic self-advocates. The first speaker, Sara M. Acevedo, PhD, is a recently-appointed faculty member at Bellevue College. Her opening remarks as Master of Ceremonies reflected on the social consciousness of solidarity, by reimagining solidarity through mutual aid and political companionship across marginalized groups. She believes that solidarity should be a verb of action instead of a state of being. Solidarity also encompasses unity of the intersections, across race, age, disability, gender identity, and religious affiliation. This is an uplifting message that needs to be shared, especially during these politically–divisive times.
The second speaker, CrisTiana ObeySumner, spoke about intersectionality when an individual holds several disabilities. Intersectionality was defined as holding two or more socially-constructed identities. The social complexity of how people with autism react to nonverbal cues leads to implicit bias, which causes able individuals to hyperfocus on specific identities. They believe America is engaged in a civility war, where norms of politeness and respect take a back seat to politics and ideology. People need to be accomplices, not allies to ensure that all people are given an equal opportunity to survive and thrive in society.
The third speaker, Jack Duroc-Danner, spoke about mythbusting nine commonly-held beliefs about autism. These myths include: “High functioning” vs. “low functioning”; autism as a linear spectrum disorder (its actually more like a color wheel); people with autism have zero empathy; no touching; autism afflicts boys and men only; 100% asexual; autism is new; autism is trendy; and autism is a cultural phenomenon. They provided data and research findings that support how many of these beliefs have no scientific basis.
This pre–conference provided participants an opportunity to network with successful individuals diagnosed with autism, and I learned several new terms (intersectionality, civility war, and neurodiversity). I also learned about Edward T. Hall’s “cultural iceberg” (https://rachelmarsdenwords.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/11807619_10153426923151291_1691980310425285378_o.png), where deep culture impacts the many social interactions that may lead to institutional bias if able people misinterpret autistics’ stimming behavior. I highly recommend that mental health providers and people with autism attend the 3rd Annual Autistics Present Symposium on October 20th at Bellevue College. For more information, go to: https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/autismspectrumnavigators/autism-conference/. The symposium’s theme is “Intersectionality: Claiming All Our Identities.” This pre–conference opened my eyes to the wide variety of strategies people with autism self-advocate for independence and respect today.
Bellevue College is hosting a pre-conference created entirely by local autistic self-advocates. There will be speakers, lunch and refreshments at this free, half-day event!
Saturday August 25th, 2018 10:00am-2:00pm South Seattle College Georgetown Campus 6737 Corson Ave S Seattle, WA 98108
Check-in and refreshments begin at 10, first speaker at 10:30, lunch at 11:50. The day’s events will conclude at 2.
Accessibility: We are striving to accommodate sometimes conflicting access needs. We will add details here as we can. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or requests. To provide as scent-free an event as possible, we request that all who attend, refrain from the following before or during the event: smoking; wearing colognes, perfumes or scented oils; or using scented laundry detergents or fabric softeners. We also ask that attendees wear clothes that have had limited exposure to the items above.
The Bernier lab and the Murray Lab recently published an article in Current Biology title ‘Sex Differences in Visual Motion Processing.’ Below is a summary from the article, and links to different news article which came out today that discuss the findings.
The importance of sex as a biological variable has recently been emphasized by major funding organizations  and within the neuroscience community . Critical sex-based neural differences are indicated by, for example, conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that have a strong sex bias with a higher prevalence among males [51, 3]. Motivated by this broader context, we report a marked sex difference in a visual motion perception task among neurotypical adults. Motion duration thresholds [4, 5]—the minimum duration needed to accurately perceive motion direction—were considerably shorter for males than females. We replicated this result across three laboratories and 263 total participants. This type of enhanced performance has previously been observed only in special populations including ASD, depression, and senescence [6, 7, 8]. The observed sex difference cannot be explained by general differences in speed of visual processing, overall visual discrimination abilities, or potential motor-related differences. We also show that while individual differences in motion duration thresholds are associated with differences in fMRI responsiveness of human MT+, surprisingly, MT+ response magnitudes did not differ between males and females. Thus, we reason that sex differences in motion perception are not captured by an MT+ fMRI measure that predicts within-sex individual differences in perception. Overall, these results show how sex differences can manifest unexpectedly, highlighting the importance of sex as a factor in the design and analysis of perceptual and cognitive studies.
News articles discussing these research findings:
- Scott O. Murray, Michael-Paul Schallmo, Tamar Kolodny, Rachel Millin, Alex Kale, Philipp Thomas, Thomas H. Rammsayer, Stefan J. Troche, Raphael A. Bernier, Duje Tadin. Sex Differences in Visual Motion Processing. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.014