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1.  Views on Researcher-Community Engagement in Autism Research in the United Kingdom: A Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109946.
There has been a substantial increase in research activity on autism during the past decade. Research into effective ways of responding to the immediate needs of autistic people is, however, less advanced, as are efforts at translating basic science research into service provision. Involving community members in research is one potential way of reducing this gap. This study therefore investigated the views of community involvement in autism research both from the perspectives of autism researchers and of community members, including autistic adults, family members and practitioners. Results from a large-scale questionnaire study (n = 1,516) showed that researchers perceive themselves to be engaged with the autism community but that community members, most notably autistic people and their families, did not share this view. Focus groups/interviews with 72 participants further identified the potential benefits and remaining challenges to involvement in research, especially regarding the distinct perspectives of different stakeholders. Researchers were skeptical about the possibilities of dramatically increasing community engagement, while community members themselves spoke about the challenges to fully understanding and influencing the research process. We suggest that the lack of a shared approach to community engagement in UK autism research represents a key roadblock to translational endeavors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109946
PMCID: PMC4193852  PMID: 25303222
2.  Averaging, not internal noise, limits the development of coherent motion processing 
Highlights
•Motion processing abilities develop gradually through childhood.•This lengthy development could be due to local noise and/or poor averaging.•5–11-year-olds and adults performed equivalent noise and motion coherence tasks.•Through childhood, internal noise reduces and averaging increases.•Yet, only improved averaging explains developments in motion coherence sensitivity.
The development of motion processing is a critical part of visual development, allowing children to interact with moving objects and navigate within a dynamic environment. However, global motion processing, which requires pooling motion information across space, develops late, reaching adult-like levels only by mid-to-late childhood. The reasons underlying this protracted development are not yet fully understood. In this study, we sought to determine whether the development of motion coherence sensitivity is limited by internal noise (i.e., imprecision in estimating the directions of individual elements) and/or global pooling across local estimates. To this end, we presented equivalent noise direction discrimination tasks and motion coherence tasks at both slow (1.5°/s) and fast (6°/s) speeds to children aged 5, 7, 9 and 11 years, and adults. We show that, as children get older, their levels of internal noise reduce, and they are able to average across more local motion estimates. Regression analyses indicated, however, that age-related improvements in coherent motion perception are driven solely by improvements in averaging and not by reductions in internal noise. Our results suggest that the development of coherent motion sensitivity is primarily limited by developmental changes within brain regions involved in integrating motion signals (e.g., MT/V5).
doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2014.07.004
PMCID: PMC4256063  PMID: 25160679
Visual development; Motion processing; Direction discrimination
3.  Reduced Face Aftereffects in Autism Are Not Due to Poor Attention 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e81353.
This study aimed to determine why face identity aftereffects are diminished in children with autism, relative to typical children. To address the possibility that reduced face aftereffects might reflect reduced attention to adapting stimuli, we investigated the consequence of controlling attention to adapting faces during a face identity aftereffect task in children with autism and typical children. We also included a size-change between adaptation and test stimuli to determine whether the reduced aftereffects reflect atypical adaptation to low- or higher-level stimulus properties. Results indicated that when attention was controlled and directed towards adapting stimuli, face identity aftereffects in children with autism were significantly reduced relative to typical children. This finding challenges the notion that atypicalities in the quality and/or quantity of children’s attention during adaptation might account for group differences previously observed in this paradigm. Additionally, evidence of diminished face identity aftereffects despite a stimulus size change supports an adaptive processing atypicality in autism that extends beyond low-level, retinotopically coded stimulus properties. These findings support the notion that diminished face aftereffects in autism reflect atypicalities in adaptive norm-based coding, which could also contribute to face processing difficulties in this group.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081353
PMCID: PMC3843681  PMID: 24312293
4.  Using Effort to Measure Reward Value of Faces in Children with Autism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79493.
According to one influential account, face processing atypicalities in autism reflect reduced reward value of faces, which results in limited attention to faces during development and a consequent failure to acquire face expertise. Surprisingly, however, there is a paucity of work directly investigating the reward value of faces for individuals with autism and the evidence for diminished face rewards in this population remains equivocal. In the current study, we measured how hard children with autism would work to view faces, using an effortful key-press sequence, and whether they were sensitive to the differential reward value of attractive and unattractive faces. Contrary to expectations, cognitively able children with autism did not differ from typically developing children of similar age and ability in their willingness to work to view faces. Moreover, the effort expended was strongly positively correlated with facial attractiveness ratings in both groups of children. There was also no evidence of atypical reward values for other, less social categories (cars and inverted faces) in the children with autism. These results speak against the possibility that face recognition difficulties in autism are explained by atypical reward value of faces.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079493
PMCID: PMC3827355  PMID: 24236140
5.  Reduced gaze aftereffects are related to difficulties categorising gaze direction in children with autism 
Neuropsychologia  2013;51(8):1504-1509.
Perceptual mechanisms are generally flexible or “adaptive”, as evidenced by perceptual aftereffects: distortions that arise following exposure to a stimulus. We examined whether adaptive mechanisms for coding gaze direction are atypical in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition. Twenty-four typical children and 24 children with autism, of similar age and ability, were administered a developmentally sensitive eye-gaze adaptation task. In the pre-adaptation phase, children judged whether target faces showing subtle deviations in eye-gaze direction were looking leftwards, rightwards or straight-ahead. Next, children were adapted to faces gazing in one consistent direction (25° leftwards/rightwards) before categorising the direction of the target faces again. Children with autism showed difficulties in judging whether subtle deviations in gaze were directed to the left, right or straight-ahead relative to typical children. Although adaptation to leftward or rightward gaze resulted in reduced sensitivity to gaze on the adapted side for both groups, the aftereffect was significantly reduced in children with autism. Furthermore, the magnitude of children's gaze aftereffects was positively related to their ability to categorise gaze direction. These results show that the mechanisms coding gaze are less flexible in autism and offer a potential new explanation for these children's difficulties discriminating subtle deviations in gaze direction.
Highlights
•Adaptive mechanisms are fundamental for perceptual coding.•We found adaptation to gaze direction was significantly attenuated in autism.•The degree of adaptation was also linked to children's gaze acuity.•This study provides potential evidence for the functional benefits of adaptation.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.03.021
PMCID: PMC3708125  PMID: 23583965
Autism; Gaze; Adaptation; Aftereffect; Vision
6.  The Development of Executive Function in Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:146132.
Autism is a common and often highly debilitating neurodevelopmental condition, whose core behavioral features are believed to be rooted in disrupted neurocognitive processes, including especially “executive function.” Researchers have predominantly focused upon understanding the putative causal relationship between difficulties in EF and autistic symptomatology. This paper suggests, however, that the effects of individual differences in EF should be more far-reaching, playing a significant part in the real-life outcomes of individuals with autism, including their social competence, everyday adaptive behavior, and academic achievement. It further considers the nature of the EF-outcome relationship, including the possible determinants of individual differences in EF, and makes several recommendations for future research.
doi:10.1155/2012/146132
PMCID: PMC3420556  PMID: 22934168
7.  What should autism research focus upon? Community views and priorities from the United Kingdom 
Autism  2014;18(7):756-770.
The rise in the measured prevalence of autism has been accompanied by much new research and research investment internationally. This study sought to establish whether the pattern of current UK autism research funding maps on to the concerns of the autism community. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with autistic adults, family members, practitioners and researchers to identify their priorities for research. We also captured the views of a large number of stakeholders via an online survey. There was a clear disparity between the United Kingdom’s pattern of funding for autism research and the priorities articulated by the majority of participants. There was general consensus that future priorities for autism research should lie in those areas that make a difference to people’s day-to-day lives. There needs to be greater involvement of the autism community both in priority setting and in research more broadly to ensure that resources reach where they are most needed and can make the most impact.
doi:10.1177/1362361314529627
PMCID: PMC4230972  PMID: 24789871
autism community; autism research; decision-making; priority setting

Results 1-7 (7)