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Title: Understanding thoughts and responding to emotions : exploring similarities and differences between autism spectrum disorders, conduct problems with callous-unemotional traits, and pathological demand avoidance
Author: O'Nions, Elizabeth Jane Phyllis
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Autism spectrum disorders, conduct problems with callous-unemotional traits and pathological demand avoidance are disorders characterised by impairments in social interaction. Existing evidence proposes a double dissociation in the impairments associated with ASD and CP/CU. Whilst individuals with ASD have difficulty intuiting others' mental states, their ability to empathise with others appears intact. In contrast, individuals with CP/HCU exhibit a lack of empathy for other people, but appear to show no impairment in intuiting mental states. The first half of the thesis aims to further the characterisation of socio-cognitive deficits associated with ASD and CP/HCU. Specifically, analyses examine evidence for aetiological separation between the behavioural manifestations of social interaction difficulties that characterise ASD and CP/HCU. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to explore whether neural responses related to thinking about others' intentions (Theory of Mind, ToM) in CP/HCU resemble those seen in typical development, in contrast to predicted reductions in response across regions normally implicated in ToM in participants with ASD. Results for both of these analyses support the proposed dissociation in understanding other minds at a cognitive level (ToM) and the ability to empathise. The second half of the thesis also considers a third group: pathological demand avoidance (PDA). Analyses explore whether PDA resembles a double hit of ASD and CP/HCU using informant and observational measures of behaviour, and cognitive tasks designed to tap awareness of mental states and empathy. Findings suggest that in terms of behaviour and cognitive processing, PDA resembles a combined profile of ASD and CP/HCU. The General Discussion considers possible interpretations of these findings, and suggestions for future studies to support a more detailed cognitive-level characterisation of PDA.
Supervisor: Happe, Francesca ; Viding, Essi Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available