Background

One of the characteristics of having ASD is that individuals can have restricted interests.  Some studies have shown that individuals with ASD process rewards differently than typically developing individuals.  One limitation of this past research is that these studies typically have not identified the interests for each participant in the study.  Since we know that the interests of those with ASD can be restricted and vary from person-to-person, what may be motivating or rewarding for one person may not be interesting for another. Our study assesses what each participant finds interesting and how they learn and process rewards. By gaining a better understanding of learning and reward-processing in adolescents with ASD, this study could help to enhance programs aimed at improving the symptoms and independence of individuals with ASD.

There are two parts to our study: a web survey study, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study. For both portions of the study we are looking to recruit teenagers between the ages of 14 and 20 and a parent or guardian.

 

Web Survey Study

Parents and adolescent participants are asked to complete survey questions on the internet using their home computers.  This study includes the completion of 1 survey by a parent (less than 20 minutes in length) that asks about the behaviours of the teenaged participant. Two surveys are completed by each teenaged participant. They take approximately 45 minutes and the participant will be asked to respond to pictures that he or she is shown.

 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

Some participants from the Web Survey Study will be contacted to see if they want to participate in this second part of the study where we will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at which areas of the brain are involved in reward-processing in individuals with ASD and how this processing differs between those with ASD and typically developing individuals. 

MRI is a safe brain imaging technique that is used to take a picture of the brain such as those found below.

MRI images of a brain.

MRI images of a brain.

It can also be used to identify brain areas involved in completing certain tasks. In this portion of the study, participants will perform a task where they will look at pictures while we use MRI to look at their brains and brain activity.

 

Why Participate?

Participating in this research study is a great way to learn more about scientific research happening in the community, volunteer your time, and contribute to a study that we hope will help those affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the future! To thank you for your time, those who participate in the survey study will be mailed a $20 gift card. 

 

Interested in Participating?

Recruitment is currently underway for the web survey portion of the study!  We are looking for volunteers between the ages of 14 and 20 with an interested parent or guardian.  If you are interested in participating in this study or you have any questions about it, please contact us.