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Investigating autism

City academics to use Baily Thomas Charitable Fund to investigate learning and reward processes in autism

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Academics from the Department of Psychology’s Autism Research Group have been awarded £70k from the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund to investigate basic learning and reward processes in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The award is in collaboration with researchers at the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick.

The aim of the project is to develop experimental protocols that will allow the researchers to systematically examine what individuals with autism experience as rewarding, and how they learn effectively through rewards.

Speaking about the grant, Dr Sebastian Gaigg of the Department's Autism Research Group, said:

“Our particular focus will be to develop methods that are suitable for examining these issues in children with autism who have additional intellectual impairments and who remain underrepresented in the literature.

“The work is important because many educational strategies for supporting children with autism rest on the assumption that they learn through rewards in much the same way as children without autism. This assumption, however, has never been tested and there are reasons to believe that reward learning processes may operate differently in autism.”

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.