Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an increasingly common developmental disorder that affects 1 in 59 children. Despite this high prevalence of ASD, knowledge regarding the biological basis of its associated cognitive deficits, including emotion processing and inhibitory control abnormalities, remains scant. In this study, I aimed to identify altered neurophysiological responses underlying inhibitory control difficulties in the context of emotion processing in ASD, together with their associations with various domains of cognitive and social function, and age. This was accomplished by assessing electroencephalographic recordings during an emotional go/nogo task alongside various parent rating scales of behaviour. Event related potential N2 component amplitudes were reduced in children with ASD compared to typically developing (TD) children. Consistent with previous findings, increased age correlated with improved behavioural accuracy and reduced N2 amplitude in the TD group, indicating that as these children develop, their neural systems underlying inhibition become more efficient. However, these associations were not observed in the ASD group. Relations between various behavioural scores and N2 amplitude were also only significant in the TD group, revealing an association between increased N2 amplitudes and improved executive control abilities and decreased autism traits in these children. The newly discovered findings of differences in neural processing between children with ASD and TD children during an emotional inhibitory control task, alongside a lack of correlation between these neural responses, age and various behavioural scores in the ASD group, provide a potential neurophysiological indicator of atypical development of inhibitory control mechanisms in children with ASD.
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Thesis advisor: Doesburg, Sam
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