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    ABSTRACT: Neuroimaging has shown that a network of cortical areas, which includes the superior temporal gyrus, is active during auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs). In the present study, healthy, non-hallucinating participants (N=30) completed an auditory signal detection task, in which participants were required to detect a voice in short bursts of white noise, with the variable of interest being the rate of false auditory verbal perceptions. This paradigm was coupled with transcranial direct current stimulation, a noninvasive brain stimulation technique, to test the involvement of the left posterior superior temporal gyrus in the creation of auditory false perceptions. The results showed that increasing the levels of excitability in this region led to a higher rate of ‘false alarm’ responses than when levels of excitability were decreased, with false alarm responses under a sham stimulation condition lying at a mid-point between anodal and cathodal stimulation conditions. There were also corresponding changes in signal detection parameters. These results are discussed in terms of prominent cognitive neuroscientific theories of AVHs, and potential future directions for research are outlined.
    Neuropsychologia 09/2014; 62. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.07.032
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    ABSTRACT: People who experience auditory hallucinations tend to show weak reality discrimination skills, so that they misattribute internal, self-generated events to an external, non-self source. We examined whether inducing negative affect in healthy young adults would increase their tendency to make external misattributions on a reality discrimination task. Participants (N = 54) received one of three mood inductions (one positive, two negative) and then performed an auditory signal detection task to assess reality discrimination. Participants who received either of the two negative inductions made more false alarms, but not more hits, than participants who received the neutral induction, indicating that negative affect makes participants more likely to misattribute internal, self-generated events to an external, non-self source. These findings are drawn from an analogue sample, and research that examines whether negative affect also impairs reality discrimination in patients who experience auditory hallucinations is required. These findings show that negative affect disrupts reality discrimination and suggest one way in which negative affect may lead to hallucinatory experiences.
    Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 04/2014; 45(3):389-395. DOI:10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.04.001
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    Consciousness and Cognition 02/2014; 24:113–114. DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2013.12.012
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    Consciousness and Cognition 01/2014; 23:40–41.
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    ABSTRACT: Covert spatial attention is tightly coupled to the eye-movement system, but the precise nature of this coupling remains contentious. Recent research has argued that covert attention and overt eye-movements many share a common biological limit, such that covert exogenous orienting of attention is limited to stimuli that fall within the range of possible eye movements (the effective oculomotor range: EOMR). However, this conclusion is based on a single experimental paradigm: The Posner cueing task. Here, we examine the extent to which covert spatial attention is limited to the EOMR in visual search. Exogenous attention was assessed using a feature search task and endogenous attention assessed using a conjunction search task. The tasks were performed monocularly with the dominant eye in the frontal position or abducted by 40 degrees. In the abducted position stimuli in the temporal hemispace could be seen, but could not become the goal of a saccadic eye-movement (i.e. they were beyond the EOMR). In contrast, stimuli in the nasal hemifield remained within the EOMR. We observed a significant effect of eye-abduction on feature search, such that search was slower when targets appeared beyond the EOMR. In contrast, eye-abduction had no effect on search times during conjunction search. Set size did not interact with target location or eye-position. It is concluded that optimal covert orienting of exogenous attention in visual search is restricted to locations within the effective oculomotor range.
    Vision research 12/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.visres.2013.12.003
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    ABSTRACT: Across studies, analysis of performance on classic measures of executive functioning (EF) among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suggests that people with this disorder may be impaired only when tasks are experimenter-administered, but not when the same tasks are computer-administered. This would imply that the underlying cause of apparent executive dysfunction in ASD is a diminished ability to engage with another person/comprehend what another person expects, rather than a diminution of the control processes that typically underpin EF task performance. However, this suggestion is limited because, to our knowledge, no study has directly compared the equivalence of computer-administered and standard experimenter-administered versions of EF tasks that have been presented in counterbalanced order among a common sample of individuals with ASD. In the current study, 21 children with ASD and 22 age- and intelligence quotient (IQ)-matched comparison participants completed, in counterbalanced order, computerised and manual versions of both a planning task and a cognitive flexibility/set-shifting task. Contrary to expectation, results indicated that participants with ASD were equally impaired in terms of the key dependent variable on standard and computerised versions of both tasks. Practically, these results suggest that computer-administered and experimenter-administered versions of planning and set-shifting tasks are equivalent among individuals with ASD and can be used interchangeably in studies of EF among this population. Theoretically, these results challenge the notion that poor performance on EF tasks among school-aged children with ASD is only the result of a limited ability to engage with a human experimenter/comprehend socially presented rules. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Autism Research 12/2013; 6(6). DOI:10.1002/aur.1311
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    ABSTRACT: Prior research on callous-unemotional (CU) traits supports a deficit in recognizing fear in faces and body postures. Difficulties recognising others' emotions may impair the typical behavioural inhibition for violent behaviour. However, recent research has begun to examine other distress cues such as pain. The present study examined emotion recognition skills, including pain, of school-excluded boys aged 11-16 years (N = 50). Using dynamic faces and body poses, we examined the relation between emotion recognition and CU traits using the youth psychopathic traits inventory (YPI) and the inventory of CU traits. Violent delinquency was covaried in regression analyses. Although fearful facial and fearful bodily expressions were unrelated to CU traits, recognition of dynamic pain facial expressions was negatively related to CU traits using the YPI. The failure to replicate a fear and sad deficit are discussed in relation to previous research. Also, findings are discussed in support of a general empathy deficit for distress cues which may underlie the problem behaviour of young males with CU traits.
    Child Psychiatry and Human Development 11/2013; 45(4). DOI:10.1007/s10578-013-0412-8
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    ABSTRACT: It is now accepted that older adults have difficulty recognizing prosodic emotion cues, but it is not clear at what processing stage this ability breaks down. We manipulated the acoustic characteristics of tones in pitch, amplitude, and duration discrimination tasks to assess whether impaired basic auditory perception coexisted with our previously demonstrated age-related prosodic emotion perception impairment. It was found that pitch perception was particularly impaired in older adults, and that it displayed the strongest correlation with prosodic emotion discrimination. We conclude that an important cause of age-related impairment in prosodic emotion comprehension exists at the fundamental sensory level of processing.
    Experimental Psychology 11/2013; 61(3):1-9. DOI:10.1027/1618-3169/a000241
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    ABSTRACT: The developmental disorder Williams syndrome (WS) has been associated with an atypical social profile of hyper-sociability and heightened social sensitivity across the developmental spectrum. In addition, previous research suggests that both children and adults with WS have a predisposition towards anxiety. The current research aimed to explore the profiles of social behaviour and anxiety across a broad age range of individuals with the disorder (n = 59, ages 6-36 years). We used insights from parental reports on two frequently used measures, the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS-P) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Severity of anxiety was correlated with a greater degree of social dysfunction as measured by the SRS in this group. We split the group according to high or low anxiety as measured by the SCAS-P and explored the profile of social skills for the two groups. Individuals high and low in anxiety differed in their social abilities. The results emphasise the need to address anxiety issues in this disorder and to consider how components of anxiety might relate to other features of the disorder.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 11/2013; 44(5). DOI:10.1007/s10803-013-1984-7
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    ABSTRACT: Individuals with the neuro-developmental disorder Williams syndrome (WS) are characterised by a combination of features which makes this group vulnerable socially, including mild-moderate cognitive difficulties, pro-social drive, and indiscriminate trust. The purpose of this study was to explore a key socio-communicative skill in individuals with WS, namely, mental state recognition abilities. We explored this skill in a detailed way by looking at how well individuals with WS recognise complex everyday mental states, and how they allocate their attention while making these judgements. Participants with WS were matched to two typically developing groups for comparison purposes, a verbal ability matched group and a chronological age matched group. While eye movements were recorded, participants were shown displays of eight different mental states in static and dynamic form, and they performed a forced-choice judgement on the mental state. Mental states were easier to recognise in dynamic form rather than static form. Mental state recognition ability for individuals with WS was poorer than expected by their chronological age, and at the level expected by their verbal ability. However, the pattern of mental state recognition for participants with WS varied according to mental state, and we found some interesting links between ease/difficulty recognising some mental states (worried/do not trust) and the classic behavioural profile associated with WS (high anxiety/indiscriminate trust). Furthermore, eye tracking data revealed that participants with WS allocated their attention atypically, with less time spent attending the information from the face regions. This challenges the widely held understanding of WS being associated with prolonged face and eye gaze, and indicates that there is more heterogeneity within this disorder in terms of socio-perception than previous reports would suggest.
    Research in developmental disabilities 10/2013; 34(12). DOI:10.1016/j.ridd.2013.09.026
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