Attention control in adults with high autistic traits and attention training in children with autism

Muller Spaniol, Mayra (2017). Attention control in adults with high autistic traits and attention training in children with autism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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While attention is not a core component of the autism phenotype, attention atypicalities are often reported in research. However, contradicting findings in autism and the Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) imply that the circumstances under which attentional selection is successful or impaired are not clear. Therefore, this thesis attempts to delineate more clearly the contexts under which attentional control is enhanced or impaired in the BAP. Specifically, I investigate whether differences in attentional control are driven by perceptual atypicalities in Chapters 2 & 3, where global/local stimuli and face/scene pairs are used while participants selected one aspect and suppressed the other. In Chapter 3, I investigate if attentional atypicalities in the BAP are linked to the mode of attentional control required, using experiments tapping separately proactive and reactive distractor suppression. In Chapter 4, I ask whether attentional atypicalities in the BAP translate to the motor domain, using a reaching task that may also tap proactive and reactive control processes and distractor suppression. In Chapter 5, I test whether attention training could prove beneficial for children with autism. The Computerized Progressive Attentional Training (CPAT) programme was utilized in schools with children with autism, while transfer effects were tested (in behaviour, cognitive and academic performance). Results suggest enhanced distractor suppression in adults with more autistic traits, when preparatory control is utilized, while the CPAT is shown to bring transfer effects from attention training to cognitive and academic skills of children with autism. Results are further discussed in Chapter 6.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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