Date: 02 May 2012
Time: 18:30 – 20:30
Location: Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB
Series: Annual Psychology Lecture
Speaker: Dr Inge-Marie Eigsti, University of Connecticut (Clinical Division)
Annual Psychology Lecture at City University London
The autism spectrum disorders are a set of serious neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in two interrelated domains: social interactions, and language and communication. Our understanding of the origin of language deficits in ASD has long focused on social deficits; many researchers have attributed language delays primarily to the lack of social interest. Recent research from our lab, and others, has complicated this picture. We have demonstrated that language impairments in ASD seem at least partially driven by deficits in very low-level (core) cognitive processes, which may cascade upwards and lead to much more comprehensive deficits in both communicative and social processes. These low-level or core cognitive processes include 1) atypical strengths in auditory discrimination, 2) deficits in temporal coordination of motor movements, and 3) differences and similarities in implicit learning. We report on both deficient and intact processing in these domains. The identification of core cognitive deficits may provide clues to the core mechanisms underlying the symptom presentation in ASD.
Inge-Marie Eigsti’s research addresses a fundamental issue in human cognition: how constraints imposed by brain development and core neurocognitive processes impact on more complex aspects of cognition and learning, with an emphasis on language acquisition. As a scientist, she is intrigued by the interaction of language acquisition and brain development. As a clinician, she is motivated by the prospect of understanding the puzzles presented by atypical development and its consequences, and what implications this might have for intervention. Although most research on language acquisition and neurocognitive processes is based on typically developing learners, the study of perturbations in development can often lead to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of growth and change. Dr Eigsti uses several converging approaches to study these issues, including behavioural paradigms and structural and functional imaging in both atypical and normal populations.
Dr Eigsti is currently Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Connecticut (Clinical Division) and Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories.