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BACKGROUND: Autism is a syndrome of unknown cause, marked by abnormal development of social behavior. Attempts to link pathological features of the amygdala, which plays a key role in emotional processing, to autism have shown little consensus. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate amygdala volume in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and its relationship to laboratory measures of social behavior to examine whether variations in amygdala structure relate to symptom severity. DESIGN: We conducted 2 cross-sectional studies of amygdala volume, measured blind to diagnosis on high-resolution, anatomical magnetic resonance images. Participants were 54 males aged 8 to 25 years, including 23 with autism and 5 with Asperger syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, recruited and evaluated at an academic center for developmental disabilities and 26 age- and sex-matched community volunteers. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised was used to confirm diagnoses and to validate relationships with laboratory measures of social function. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Amygdala volume, judgment of facial expressions, and eye tracking. RESULTS: In study 1, individuals with autism who had small amygdalae were slowest to distinguish emotional from neutral expressions (P=.02) and showed least fixation of eye regions (P=.04). These same individuals were most socially impaired in early childhood, as reported on the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (P<.04). Study 2 showed smaller amygdalae in individuals with autism than in control subjects (P=.03) and group differences in the relation between amygdala volume and age. Study 2 also replicated findings of more gaze avoidance and childhood impairment in participants with autism with the smallest amygdalae. Across the combined sample, severity of social deficits interacted with age to predict different patterns of amygdala development in autism (P=.047). CONCLUSIONS: These findings best support a model of amygdala hyperactivity that could explain most volumetric findings in autism. Further psychophysiological and histopathological studies are indicated to confirm these findings.
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Mindfulness meditation is increasingly recognized as a health promotion practice across many different kinds of settings. Concomitantly, contemplative education is being integrated into colleges and universities in order to enhance learning through reflection and personal insight. The confluence of these trends provides an opportunity to develop experiential curriculum that promotes both health and learning through the teaching of contemplative practices in higher education settings. Such curriculum, if indeed it is believed to be a valuable development in higher education, must not be reserved only for elite and highly competitive schools serving traditional college students, but must be integrated into campuses of all kinds and made accessible to any student. This emphasis on accessibility will need to consider the growing interest in contemplative learning across economic, religious, and ethnic groups, geographic contexts, and individual differences, including disability. The growth of contemplative curriculum in higher education will also need to be accompanied by meaningful and valid curriculum assessment methods in order to abide by the standards of contemporary university settings as it gently transforms many such settings. This article describes the development of an experiential course in mindfulness that was taught on two very different college campuses. The author's personal experiences and preparation for the course, the course content, the impact of the course on students, and reflections on contemplative practice as a movement in education are offered as an example of the potential for contemplative education in some unexpected places.

Students with learning disabilities (LD; defined by compromised academic performance) often have higher levels of anxiety, school-related stress, and less optimal social skills compared with their typically developing peers. Previous health research indicates that meditation and relaxation training may be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting social skills. This pilot study used a preā€”post no-control design to examine feasibility of, attitudes toward, and outcomes of a 5-week mindfulness meditation intervention administered to 34 adolescents diagnosed with LD. Postintervention survey responses overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes toward the program. All outcome measures showed significant improvement, with participants who completed the program demonstrating decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance. Although not directly assessed, the outcomes are consistent with a cognitive-interference model of learning disability and suggest that mindfulness meditation decreases anxiety and detrimental self-focus of attention, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic outcomes.

Studied the different effects of yoga and psychomotor activity on a coding task, with 34 children referred to a learning center as Ss. They received a baseline period, a control period involving a fine motor task, an experimental treatment, another control period, a treatment reversal, and a control period. The results indicate that order of treatment had no effect on the results. Furthermore, coding scores in the 2nd half of the experiment were higher than those in the 1st half. There was no difference in the effect on performance of yoga and gross motor activities. Irrespective of which treatment was given, scores after treatment were significantly higher than those during the control periods. There are implications for physical education programming in elementary schools.

Explains the TCT-DP by discussing (a) the need for the TCT-DP, (b) the justification for and purpose of the test, (c) the meaning and limitations of the test construct, (d) design, (e) evaluation criteria, (f) the 1st results, and (g) prognostics. The TCT-DP testing sheet includes stimuli, in the form of figural elements or fragments, intentionally designed in an incomplete and irregular fashion to achieve maximum flexibility as an imperative for creativity. The TCT-DP allows potentially gifted students to interpret and to complete what they conceive to be significant for the development of a creative product.

OBJECTIVES: Affective neuroscience research that investigates core symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) may be effective in differentiating PBD phenotypes. The current study used affect-modulated startle to examine potential differences in reactivity to emotional stimuli (reward and punishment) in narrow and broad phenotype PBD and controls. METHODS: Thirty children meeting DSM-IV bipolar disorder criteria (i.e. narrow phenotype PBD with defined manic episodes with elevated/expansive mood), 19 children meeting criteria for severe mood dysregulation (i.e. broad phenotype with chronic irritability, hyper-reactivity, and hyperarousal), and 19 controls completed a lottery startle paradigm involving reward (money) and punishment (loud noise). Startle probes were presented during anticipation of the emotional stimulus, immediately following the presentation of the stimulus, or during return to baseline following the stimulus. RESULTS: By self-report, patients and controls found the putative punishment to be preferable to the neutral condition. In the reward condition, patient samples reported greater arousal than did controls, but no between-group differences were found on the magnitude of startle response during the reward, punishment, or neutral conditions. CONCLUSIONS: The failure to find differences in affect-modulated startle between control children and those with narrow or broad PBD phenotypes speaks to the methodological challenges associated with studying reward mechanisms in PBD. Alternative paradigms that focus on different aspects of reward mechanisms are discussed.
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