Perceptual Development Lab
The purpose of research conducted in the Perceptual Development Lab (PDL) at IUPUC is to shed light on how sensory experiences during early development affect social functioning, particularly in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We pay special attention to how sensory feedback produced during self-generated movement structures early self-awareness. Our long-term goal is to extend the theoretical framework on the origins of ASD so that better screening methods can be developed for at-risk infants.
Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is a complex, lifelong disorder with high symptom variability. Research suggests that ASD likely results from an interaction between environmental factors and gene-regulated brain development, with its origins beginning during prenatal development. Despite decades of research, an important question remains unanswered: If ASD has its origins in prenatal development, what do these deficits look like from birth and into early infancy? To alleviate the effects of ASD, it is critical to better understand its development from as early as possible in infancy. Early identification, however, is a complex task which requires a better scientific understanding of how infants and young children develop perceptually and cognitively.
Research studies completed in the PDL have the potential to enable practitioners to better identify red flags in infant development, offering the ultimate benefit of improving quality of life for children and families living in and near our service region.The goal is for the lab to serve as a tool for fostering scientific discovery and advancement in autism research. The lab can also be used as a tool for pursuing research grants and other funding for future projects.
Including IUPUC students in PDL research is essential to its success. The research team is composed of exceptional undergraduates who gain valuable experience that helps them prepare for graduate-level studies in the future. Students who participate in PDL projects present research findings at national and international conferences.
First-Person Awareness in Early Childhood Development
- It has been suggested that experience with first-person information, such as the sensations produced during self-generated movements, contributes importantly to social cognitive development. First-person information is particularly important in early childhood because infants and toddlers learn about others’ intentions and actions by experiencing their own. This project looks at how children with ASD, as well as typically developing children, perceive and understand self-generated movement and how this type of first-person information interacts with social attention. Children who participate in this study make judgments about their own movements seen via delayed videos or first-person action cameras.