Faculty Mentor: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh PhD
Research Lab: A-Z Lab
Year of Entry: 2016
I am a PhD student in the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. I work in the A-Z Lab under the guidance of Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh at the Brain and Creativity Institute. The project I work on is an fMRI study exploring social and motor connections in the brain in children who are typically developing, or who have a diagnosis of Developmental Coordination Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder. I graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in Psychology and received my EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Mind, Brain and Education. I’m interested in the connections in motor and socio-emotional networks in the brain, embodied cognition, and the neural impact of movement and exercise in typically and atypically developing populations.
Master of Education (MEd)
in Mind, Brain, and Education
2015 | Harvard Graduate School of Education
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
2012 | Wheaton College
Kilroy, E., Harrison, L., Butera, C., Jayashankar, A., Cermak, S., Kaplan, J., Williams, M., Haranin, E., Bookheimer, S., Dapretto, M., & Aziz-Zadeh, L. (2021). Unique deficit in embodied simulation in autism: An fMRI study comparing autism and developmental coordination disorder. Human Brain Mapping, 42(5), 1532-1546. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.25312 Show abstract
A deficit in pre‐cognitively mirroring other people's actions and experiences may be related to the social impairments observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it is unclear whether such embodied simulation deficits are unique to ASD or instead are related to motor impairment, which is commonly comorbid with ASD. Here we aim to disentangle how, neurologically, motor impairments contribute to simulation deficits and identify unique neural signatures of ASD. We compare children with ASD (N = 30) to children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD; N = 23) as well as a typically developing group (N = 33) during fMRI tasks in which children observe, imitate, and mentalize about other people's actions. Results indicate a unique neural signature in ASD: during action observation, only the ASD group shows hypoactivity in a region important for simulation (inferior frontal gyrus, pars opercularis, IFGop). However, during a motor production task (imitation), the IFGop is hypoactive for both ASD and DCD groups. For all tasks, we find correlations across groups with motor ability, even after controlling for age, IQ, and social impairment. Conversely, across groups, mentalizing ability is correlated with activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex when controlling for motor ability. These findings help identify the unique neurobiological basis of ASD for aspects of social processing. Furthermore, as no previous fMRI studies correlated brain activity with motor impairment in ASD, these findings help explain prior conflicting reports in these simulation networks.
Butera, C., Ring, P., Sideris, J., Jayashankar, A., Kilroy, E., Harrison, L., Cermak, S., & Aziz-Zadeh, L. (2020). Impact of sensory processing on school performance outcomes in high functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Mind, Brain, and Education, 14(3), 243-254. https://doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12242 Show abstract
Difficulty processing sensory information may impede progress in school for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We explore the relationship between sensory processing and school performance in 26 high‐functioning youths with ASD and 26 controls (age 8–14) using measures of sensory, social, cognitive, and academic functioning. In the ASD group, bivariate Pearson correlations indicated a significant positive relationship between intelligence quotient (IQ) and the School Competence Scale (SCS) of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and a significant negative relationship between Dunn's Sensory Processing Framework and SCS scores. Final hierarchical multiple linear regression model accounting for SCS scores in ASD included IQ, ADHD symptoms, and sensory features. An interaction between increased sensory sensitivity with reduced sensory avoidance behaviors explained the greatest amount of variance in SCS, meaning school performance is lowest for children with greater hypersensitivity and fewer avoidance behaviors. Results indicate a strong impact of sensory processing on school performance in ASD.
Haigh, S. M., Coffman, B. A., Murphy, T. K., Butera, C. D., Leiter‐McBeth, J. R., & Salisbury, D. F. (2019). Reduced late mismatch negativity and auditory sustained potential to rule‐based patterns in schizophrenia. European Journal of Neuroscience, 49(2), 275-289. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14274 Show abstract
Complex rule‐based auditory processing is abnormal in individuals with long‐term schizophrenia (SZ), as demonstrated by reduced mismatch negativity (MMN) to deviants in rule‐based patterns and reduced auditory sustained potential (ASP) that appears when grouping tones together. Together, this suggests deficits later in the auditory processing hierarchy in Sz. Here, MMN and ASP were elicited by deviations from a complex zig‐zag pitch pattern that cannot be predicted by simple linear rules. Twenty‐seven SZ and 26 matched healthy controls (HC) participated. Frequent groups of patterns contained eight tones that zig‐zagged in a two‐up one‐down pitch‐based paradigm. There were two deviant patterns: the final tone was either higher in pitch than expected (creating a jump in pitch) or was repeated. Simple MMN to pitch‐deviants among repetitive tones was measured for comparison. Sz exhibited a smaller pitch MMN compared to HC as expected. HC produced a late MMN in response to the repeat and jump‐deviant and a larger ASP to the standard group of tones, all of which were significantly blunted in SZ. In Sz, the amplitude of the late complex MMN was related to neuropsychological functioning, whereas ASP was not. ASP and late MMN did not significantly correlate in HC or in Sz, suggesting that they are not dependent on one another and may originate within distinct processing streams. Together, this suggests multiple deficits later in the auditory sensory‐perceptual hierarchy in Sz, with impairments evident in both segmentation and deviance detection abilities.
Haigh, S. M., De Matteis, M., Coffman, B. A., Murphy, T. K., Butera, C. D., Ward, K. L., Leiter‐McBeth, J. R., & Salisbury, D. F. (2017). Mismatch negativity to pitch pattern deviants in schizophrenia. European Journal of Neuroscience, 46(6), 2229-2239. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13660 Show abstract
Simple mismatch negativity (MMN) to infrequent pitch deviants is impaired in individuals with long‐term schizophrenia (Sz). The complex MMN elicited by pattern deviance often manifests later after deviant onset than simple MMN and can ascertain deficits in abstracting relationships between stimuli. Sz exhibit reduced complex MMN, but so far this has only been measured when deviance detection relies on a grouping rule. We measured MMN to deviants in pitch‐based rules to see whether MMN is also abnormal in Sz under these conditions. Three experiments were conducted. Twenty‐seven Sz and 28 healthy matched controls (HC) participated in Experiments 1 and 2, and 24 Sz and 26 HC participated in Experiment 3. Experiment 1 was a standard pitch MMN task, and Sz showed the expected MMN reduction (~ 115 ms) in the simple pitch deviant compared to HC. Experiment 2 comprised standard groups of six tones that ascended in pitch, and deviant groups where the last tone descended in pitch. Complex MMN was late (~ 510 ms) and significantly blunted in Sz. Experiment 3 comprised standard groups of 12 tones (six tones ascending in pitch followed by six tones descending in pitch, like a scale), and deviant groups containing two repetitions of six ascending tones (the scale restarted midstream). Complex MMN was also late (~ 460 ms) and significantly blunted in Sz. These results identify a late pitch pattern deviance‐related MMN that is deficient in schizophrenia. This suggests specific deficits in later more complex deviance detection in schizophrenia for abstract patterns.
Haigh, S. M., Coffman, B. A., Murphy, T. K., Butera, C. D., & Salisbury, D. F. (2016). Abnormal auditory pattern perception in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 176(2–3), 473-479. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2016.07.007 Show abstract
Mismatch negativity (MMN) in response to deviation from physical sound parameters (e.g., pitch, duration) is reduced in individuals with long-term schizophrenia (Sz), suggesting deficits in deviance detection. However, MMN can appear at several time intervals as part of deviance detection. Understanding which part of the processing stream is abnormal in Sz is crucial for understanding MMN pathophysiology. We measured MMN to complex pattern deviants, which have been shown to produce multiple MMNs in healthy controls (HC). Both simple and complex MMNs were recorded from 27 Sz and 27 matched HC. For simple MMN, pitch- and duration-deviants were presented among frequent standard tones. For complex MMN, patterns of five single tones were repeatedly presented, with the occasional deviant group of tones containing an extra sixth tone. Sz showed smaller pitch MMN (p = 0.009, ~ 110 ms) and duration MMN (p = 0.030, ~ 170 ms) than healthy controls. For complex MMN, there were two deviance-related negativities. The first (~ 150 ms) was not significantly different between HC and SZ. The second was significantly reduced in Sz (p = 0.011, ~ 400 ms). The topography of the late complex MMN was consistent with generators in anterior temporal cortex. Worse late MMN in Sz was associated with increased emotional withdrawal, poor attention, lack of spontaneity/conversation, and increased preoccupation. Late MMN blunting in schizophrenia suggests a deficit in later stages of deviance processing. Correlations with negative symptoms measures are preliminary, but suggest that abnormal complex auditory perceptual processes may compound higher-order cognitive and social deficits in the disorder.