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Autism is a neurological disorder that is marked by impaired development in social interaction and communication and a restricted repertoire of activities and interests. Although we know that autism is a neurological disorder, the root of the neurological dysfunction is unknown. Therefore, research efforts have been focused at trying to identify what brain areas may primarily contribute to the disorder. In addition, because children with Down syndrome share some of the language delays with children with autism, we are interested in determining whether or not children with this diagnosis share similar neurological dysfunctions with children with autism. Hopefully, through various research efforts, we will obtain a clearer idea about the causes of autism and Down Syndrome. The research project that we will be conducting will study the function one two brain regions to determine if either of these areas may be a key to identifying and diagnosing children with autism and /or children with Down syndrome.
The purpose of the research project is to determine if locus coeruleus and/or hypothalamic activity is dysfunctional in children with autism and/or children with Down syndrome. The locus coeruleus and hypothalamic systems are involved in controlling pupil size and are involved in the control of attentional arousal. Therefore, this project will use activities that elicit this attentional responses and will examine salivary measures of these systems.
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