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With a growing number of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), more and more research has been conducted on majority male cohorts with ASD from young, adolescence, and some older age. Currently, males make up the majority of individuals diagnosed with ASD, however, recent research states that the gender gap is closing due to more advanced screening and a better understanding of how females with ASD present their symptoms. Little research has been published on the neurocognitive differences that exist between older adults with ASD compared to neurotypical (NT) counterparts, and nothing has specifically addressed older women with ASD. This study utilized neuroimaging and neuropsychological tests to examine differences between diagnosis and sex of four distinct groups: older men with ASD, older women with ASD, older NT men, and older NT women. In each group, hippocampal size (via FreeSurfer) was analyzed for differences as well as correlations with neuropsychological tests. Participants (ASD Female, n = 12; NT Female, n = 14; ASD Male, n = 30; NT Male = 22), were similar according to age, IQ, and education. The results of the study indicated that the ASD Group as a whole performed worse on executive functioning tasks (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Trails Making Test) and memory-related tasks (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, Weschler Memory Scale: Visual Reproduction) compared to the NT Group. Interactions of sex by diagnosis approached significance only within the WCST non-perseverative errors, with the women with ASD performing worse than NT women, but no group differences between men. Effect sizes between the female groups (ASD female vs. NT female) showed more than double that of the male groups (ASD male vs. NT male) for all WCST and AVLT measures. Participants with ASD had significantly smaller right hippocampal volumes than NT participants. In addition, all older women showed larger hippocampal volumes when corrected for total intracranial volume (TIV) compared to all older men. Overall, NT Females had significant correlations across all neuropsychological tests and their hippocampal volumes whereas no other group had significant correlations. These results suggest a tighter coupling between hippocampal size and cognition in NT Females than NT Males and both sexes with ASD. This study promotes further understanding of the neuropsychological differences between older men and women, both with and without ASD. Further research is needed on a larger sample of older women with and without ASD.
In this pilot study, the purpose was to determine if certain language interventions could help bilingual children reduce maze use and improve their story retell abilities. We used language intervention, Story Champs, and its Spanish version, Puente de Cuentos to help bilingual children improve their story retell abilities. We conducted the intervention over the course of three days in both Spanish and English. The children participated in three stories in each language each day. They also received a narrative measure before and after the intervention to measure gains in story ability and to measure maze use. Results of the study indicated that there were no statistically-significant differences in the children's story retell abilities or maze use before and after the intervention. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by our results for future further study because of some improvements the children made.
This pilot study evaluated whether Story Champs and Puente de Cuentos helped bilingual preschoolers increase their usage of emotional terms and ability to tell stories. Participants in this study included 10 Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers. Intervention was conducted in 9 sessions over 3 days using the Test of Narrative Retell to measure results. Results did not find significant gains in either emotional term usage or ability to tell stories, but the results were promising as a pilot study.
The study focuses on the creation of the Strengthening Skills Program (SSP) and its feasibility and acceptability among autistic adults across the lifespan. Over the course of two years, the program has been developed and delivered to autistic adults with the aim of improving quality of life. The program included adapted social skills training from the UCLA Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) for young adults, adapted mindfulness training from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and custom executive skills training. Pre- and post-intervention acceptability questionnaires were gathered from 42 participants. Participants were separated into three groups (SSP, PEERS, and Delayed Treatment Control [DTC]; n=14 per group) stratified by age, gender, and if the participant had a program partner who would attend the program alongside as support. All groups were administered over Zoom once per week and lasted for 16 weeks each. The SSP group met for three hours each week and the PEERS group met for an hour and a half. Qualitative analysis was implemented on participant feedback to identify thematic codes related to their experiences with the programs. Overall, results suggest the SSP intervention had significantly higher acceptability ratings compared to PEERS alone and could be a useful addition to the limited interventions available for autistic adults.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are known to show impairments in various domains of executive function (EF) such as behavioral flexibility or inhibitory control. Research suggests that EF impairment in adults with ASD may relate to ASD core symptoms, restrictive behaviors and social communication deficits. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has shown promise for improving EF abilities in neurotypical adults, but research has not explored its efficacy or neural mechanisms in adults with ASD. This pilot study examines the effects of an 8-week MBSR intervention on self-report measures of EF and resting-state functional connectivity in a sample of adults with ASD. Fifty-four participants were assigned either to an MBSR group (n = 29) or a social support group (n = 25). Executive function was measured using the BRIEF-2 before and after the intervention for the twenty-seven participants in the second cohort. MBSR-specific improvements in EF were found for BRIEF measures of initiation, inhibition, and working-memory. Resting-state fMRI data was analyzed using independent component analysis (ICA), and group by time resting-state functional connectivity differences were observed between the cerebellar network and frontal regions including the right frontal pole (rFP), medial frontal cortex (MFC) and left and right superior frontal gyri (SFG). The MBSR group showed increases in functional connectivity between the cerebellum and EF regions which correlated with improvements in BRIEF-2 measures. These findings suggest that MBSR may improve EF domains in adults with ASD, and that increases in functional connectivity between the cerebellum and frontal regions while at rest may be a mechanism for such improvements.