Paediatrics (RCH) - Research Publications

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    Social cognition in autism spectrum disorder and neurogenetic syndromes
    Maier, A ; Ryan, N ; Chisholm, A ; Payne, J ; McDonald, S (Routledge, 2021)
    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by impairing social communication deficits and restricted and repetitive behaviours. Over the past few decades, a growing body of research has proposed that social cognitive deficits are a key psychological driver of ASD. In the following chapter, we review evidence for this and show that while social cognitive deficits are common in individuals with ASD, they do not hold clear relationships with ASD symptoms and are not necessary nor sufficient for a diagnosis of ASD. We consider several reasons for this, including the heterogeneity inherent within individuals with ASD, at the symptom, cognitive and aetiological levels. We then discuss the utility of examining ASD and social cognition within syndromic ASD populations which reduce the heterogeneity in the idiopathic population and can be thought of as human ‘genetic models’ of ASD. These syndromic cases of ASD offer a valuable opportunity to elucidate the neurobiological and developmental pathways that lead to both ASD symptoms and aberrant social cognitive processing that are due to a single gene mutation. The possibility of this research to translate into targeted treatments is also explored.