Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Tricia Z. King

Second Advisor

Diana L. Robins

Third Advisor

Christopher Henrich

Abstract

Difficulty interpreting facial expressions is an important component of social deficits seen in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). The amygdalo-fusiform white matter tract is theorized to contribute to facial expression interpretation. The current study examined relationships between white matter integrity (WMI) along the aymgdalo-fusiform pathway, facial emotion perception (FEP), and socialization skill (SS) in a sample of typically developing (TD) participants and participants with ASDs. Groups were differentiated by WMI along the amygdalo-fusiform tract. Results suggested unexpected negative relationships between WMI and SS, and between WMI and FEP in the ASD group. A group interaction was suggested for WMI and FEP such that participants with ASDs demonstrated a negative relationship, whereas TD participants displayed the hypothesized positive relationship. Overall, findings suggest that measures of WMI along the amygdalo-fusiform tract should not be conceptualized identically in participants with ASDs and controls.

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