Autism is often not recognised until later in life. Children are on average 3 to 4 years old when diagnosed. If we could recognise signs of autism earlier in development, we could offer specific assistance, both to the children and their parents and caregivers. Therefore, our research aims to find out more about the causes of autism and the development of children with autism during their first few years.

Sensory processing

That is why we have studied children who have an older sibling with autism and therefore have an increased chance of having autism themselves. We found that these children seemed to process social stimuli differently even when they were only five months old1. The babies watched videos of a woman playing peek-a-boo or another game with her hands. At the same time, we measured the brain activity of the babies. We knew from previous research that autistic adults show less activity in the brain areas that process social information in these types of studies. We found a similar pattern in the babies we tested.

Brain development

In our current research we want to find out more about the (brain) development of young children with autism. To achieve this, we use modern research techniques to study the behaviour and brains of babies and toddlers. In the long term, this research will contribute to more knowledge about the causes and early characteristics of autism, which will help to provide earlier and better support to children and their parents.

Current research: PIP and SAPIENS

We are currently working on two research projects. In collaboration with AIMS-2-TRIALS, we are working on the PIP-project in which we map the differences in brain development and behavior in a large group of young children, including children diagnosed with autism or ADHD. The Sapiens project is a study of the cognitive and brain processed in young children who may develop differently in the areas of social behavior, communication and play (see video to the right).

Read more?

  1. Braukmann, R., Lloyd‐Fox, S., Blasi, A., Johnson, M. H., Bekkering, H., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hunnius, S. (2018). Diminished socially selective neural processing in 5‐month‐old infants at high familial risk of autism. European Journal of Neuroscience, 47(6), 720-728.
  2. Jones, E. J., et al. (2019). Eurosibs: Towards robust measurement of infant neurocognitive predictors of autism across Europe. Infant Behavior and Development, 57, 101316.

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