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1.  Story Goodness in Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and in Optimal Outcomes From ASD 
This study examined narrative quality of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using a well-studied “story goodness” coding system.
Narrative samples were analyzed for distinct aspects of story goodness and rated by naïve readers on dimensions of story goodness, accuracy, cohesiveness, and oddness. Adolescents with high-functioning ASD were compared with adolescents with typical development (TD; n = 15 per group). A second study compared narratives from adolescents across three groups: ASD, TD, and youths with “optimal outcomes,” who were diagnosed with ASD early in development but no longer meet criteria for ASD and have typical behavioral functioning.
In both studies, the ASD group's narratives had lower composite quality scores compared with peers with typical development. In Study 2, narratives from the optimal outcomes group were intermediate in scores and did not differ significantly from those of either other group. However, naïve raters were able to detect qualitative narrative differences across groups.
Findings indicate that pragmatic deficits in ASD are salient and could have clinical relevance. Furthermore, results indicate subtle differences in pragmatic language skills for individuals with optimal outcomes despite otherwise typical language skills in other domains. These results highlight the need for clinical interventions tailored to the specific deficits of these populations.
PMCID: PMC4972015  PMID: 27280731
2.  Brief Report: Generalization weaknesses in verbally fluent children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder 
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty generalizing – i.e., relating new stimuli to past experiences. Few experimental studies have addressed this weakness, despite its impact on intervention effects. In a reanalysis of data (de Marchena et al., 2011), we tested a novel form of generalization – the ability to transfer a strategy used in one context to a similar context – in verbally fluent youth with ASD and matched typically developing (TD) controls. Participants with ASD were subtly less likely to learn from experience; their generalizations were less consistent. Generalization in ASD correlated with receptive vocabulary but not age, suggesting a link to language development. A richer understanding of how to promote generalization in ASD will advance both theory and practice.
PMCID: PMC4573235  PMID: 26031922
Autism spectrum disorder; generalization; reasoning; learning
4.  The art of common ground: emergence of a complex pragmatic language skill in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders* 
Journal of child language  2015;43(1):43-80.
Deficits in pragmatic language are central to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here we investigate COMMON GROUND, a pragmatic language skill in which speakers adjust the contents of their speech based on their interlocutor’s perceived knowledge, in adolescents with ASD and typical development (TD), using an experimental narrative paradigm. Consistent with prior research, TD participants produced shorter narrations when they shared knowledge with an interlocutor, an effect not observed at the group level in ASD. This effect was unrelated to general skills such as IQ or receptive vocabulary. In ASD, the effect was correlated with age and symptom severity: older and less severely affected participants DID shorten their narratives. Several metrics (including explicit references to common ground, speech disfluencies, and communicative quality ratings) suggested that, although adolescents with ASD did not show implicit reductions in their narrative length, they were aware of common ground, and communicated differently in its presence.
PMCID: PMC4764348  PMID: 25708810
5.  22q11.2 duplication syndrome: elevated rate of autism spectrum disorder and need for medical screening 
Molecular Autism  2016;7:27.
Widespread use of microarray technology has led to increasing identification of 22q11.2 duplication syndrome (22q11.2DupS), the reciprocal syndrome of the well-characterized 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS). Individuals with 22q11.2DS have elevated rates of community diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia, and a range of medical problems and birth defects that necessitate extensive medical screening. Case reports of 22q11.2DupS include patients with ASD, fewer medical problems, and no schizophrenia; however, no prospective cohort study has been reported. The goals of the study were to (1) characterize the neuropsychiatric functioning of a cohort of individuals with 22q11.2DupS in comparison to large samples of typically developing controls (TDCs), ASD and 22q11.2DS; (2) estimate the prevalence of ASD in 22q11.2DupS; (3) determine whether the indications that prompted the genetic testing in 22q11.2DupS differ from 22q11.2DS and (4) determine whether comprehensive medical screening should be recommended for those diagnosed with 22q11.2DupS.
Medical characterization was done by parental questionnaire and medical chart review of individuals with 22q11.2DupS (n = 37) and 22q11.2DS (n = 101). Neuropsychiatric characterization of children with 22.11.2DupS, 22q11.2DS, TDCs, and ASD was done by parent-report questionnaires; in addition, the ASD and 22q11.2DupS groups received the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.
Individuals with 22q11.2DupS, 22q11.2DS, and ASD had significantly impaired social interaction and adaptive behavior skills compared to TDCs. Overall, 38 % of children aged 2–18 with 22q11.2DupS had community diagnoses of ASD, but fewer (14–25 %) met on the basis of best clinical judgment that included ADI-R and ADOS data. Indications for genetic testing were significantly different for 22q11.2DupS and 22q11.2DS, with the deletions more commonly tested because of birth defects or medical problems, and the duplications because of developmental delay. However, when the screening protocol for 22q11.2DS was applied to the 22q11.2DupS sample, several medical problems were identified that would pose significant risk if left undetected.
22q11.2DupS has a high rate of ASD at 14–25 %, among the highest of any genetic disorder. Prospective medical screening should be done for all patients with 22q11.2DupS, including those diagnosed due to developmental delays and ASD alone.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13229-016-0090-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4859984  PMID: 27158440
22q11.2 duplication syndrome; 22q11.2 deletion syndrome; Autism spectrum disorder; Developmental delay; Medical characterization; Medical screening; Neuropsychiatric functioning; Syndromic autism; Typically developing controls
6.  Involvement of the anterior cingulate and frontoinsular cortices in rapid processing of salient facial emotional information 
NeuroImage  2010;54(3):2539-2546.
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and frontoinsular cortex (FI) have been implicated in processing information across a variety of domains, including those related to attention and emotion. However, their role in rapid information processing, for example, as required for timely processing of salient stimuli, is not well understood. Here, we designed an emotional face priming paradigm and employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to elucidate their role in these mechanisms. Target faces with either neutral or fearful emotion were briefly primed by either neutral or fearful faces, or by blank ovals. Activation in the pregenual ACC and the FI, together with other regions, such as the amygdala, were preferentially activated in response to fearful face priming, suggesting that these regions are involved in the rapid processing of salient facial emotional information.
PMCID: PMC3006498  PMID: 20937394
anterior cingulate cortex; emotion; fMRI; frontoinsular cortex; priming

Results 1-6 (6)