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Using electroencephalogram (EEG), researchers recorded the brain waves of children with and without autism as they watched videos of moving dots that were arranged to look like a person.

Brains of children with autism may not always 'see' body language

Noticing and understanding what it means when a person leans into a conversation or takes a step back and crosses their arms is a vital part of human communication. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience have found that children with autism spectrum disorder may not always process body movements effectively, especially if they are distracted by something else.

“Being able to read and respond to someone’s body language is important in our daily interactions with others,” says Emily Knight, clinical and postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics and neuroscience, who is the first author of the study recently published in Molecular Autism. “Our findings suggest that when children with autism are distracted by something else, their brains process the movements of another person differently than their peers.”

Using electroencephalogram (EEG), researchers recorded the brain waves of children with and without autism as they watched videos of moving dots that were arranged to look like a person. When the children were asked to watch the videos but focus only on the color of the dots, the brains of children on the autism spectrum were unable to notice whether the videos moved like people—unlike the other children.

“If their brain is processing body movements less they might have a harder time understanding other people, and need to pay extra attention to body language in order to see it,” says Knight. “Knowing this can help guide new ways to support people with autism.”

“This is more evidence of how the brain of someone with autism is processing the world around them,” says John Foxe, lead author of the study. “This research is a vital step in creating a more inclusive space for people with autism by giving a glimpse of how their brain processes an unspoken part of communication.”

Learn more.

Study examines COVID's impact on opioid epidemic

A new $3.5 million grant will examine how the economic, social, and health care disruptions caused by COVID worsened the nation’s opioid epidemic. Co-led by University economist Elaine Hill and Meredith Adams of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, the study will seek to determine how the response to the COVID pandemic impacted opioid use disorder in different communities and whether the progress made in recent years can be recovered.

The COVID pandemic ushered in a sharp reversal in the trend of opioid-related deaths, as the number jumped by more than 28 percent in the first year of the pandemic. In fact, the scope of opioid deaths during this period was likely an undercount, as Hill’s prior research has shown that the actual number of opioid deaths is probably significantly higher than reported figures.

When the COVID pandemic hit, it upended social and economic life as states and counties implemented measures to halt the spread of the virus and protect those whose health was most at risk. Health care infrastructure was also redeployed from other areas to provide COVID care. All these factors combined to worsen the opioid epidemic in vulnerable communities and increase opioid use in communities where it was not prevalent pre-pandemic.

The new project will involve researchers from the University of Rochester, Wake Forest University, and Indiana University. The team will harness huge sets of federal and state health care claims data, capturing nearly half of the U.S. population. This information will be combined longitudinally across different stages of the pandemic with state- and county-level mitigation policies, the realignment of addiction treatment resources, and how these factors impacted the care received by individuals with opioid use disorders.

The project is part of a broader initiative supported by the National Institutes of Health called the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research on COVID Consortium, which was created to assess the impact of COVID and associated mitigation efforts on individual, family, and community behavior and on how subsequent economic disruption affects health-related outcomes, with close attention to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Book explores the music and ‘performance-oriented’ nature of medieval prayer guides

Detail of an invitatory antiphon, Regem cui omnia vivunt with Psalm 94, from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, one of the plainchants Michael Alan Anderson discusses in his new book.

Michael Alan Anderson, professor of musicology at the Eastman School, recently published Music and Performance in the Book of Hours (Routledge). The book uncovers the musical foundations and performance suggestions of books of hours, guides to prayer that were the most popular and widespread books of the late Middle Ages.

Beyond an archive of common plainchants, Anderson explores books of hours for cues to a deeper experience with a network of assorted sounds in these precious prayer manuals, melodic echoes that were recognizable because they simultaneously recalled performance and were perform­able by nature.

“I regard the act of ‘performance’ on a broad spectrum in this study – from reading silently and recalling performance in the ‘inner ear’ to murmuring and outright singing —publicly or privately,” Anderson says.

Discussing the characteristic page layout and illustrations associated with books of hours, Anderson writes, “While the cues for performance and signals for engagement with the text remain evident, artistic decoration and relentless text repeti­tions further argue against the traditional inclination of scribes to save space in manuscripts. A perfor­mance-oriented mise-en-page requires careful planning to apportion the proper amount of space needed to reflect the desired vocal sound, texture, and action.”

PhD dissertation defense

Rubens Sautchuk Junior, translational biomedical science, 1 p.m. Aug. 18, 2022, Helen Wood Hall 1W-304.
The Role and Regulation of Cyclophilin D and Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore During Osteogenic Differentiation.
Host: Roman Eliseev.

Q&A today on open education grants

The River Campus Libraries is once again offering funds to support the development and implementation of open education resources and open pedagogy practices through the Open Education Grant program.

Anyone who is teaching or otherwise involved in student learning on the River Campus is eligible. Attend an informal, virtual Q&A today, August 12, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. EDT to learn more. Register to receive the Zoom link.

Responsible conduct of research training for AS&E grad students

AS&E graduate students now have another option for completing the NSF’s Responsible Conduct of Research training requirement.

A new 1-credit, half semester ethics course (PHIL 436-Research Ethics) developed by the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) and the Department of Philosophy will be offered this fall.

The course is specifically designed for students in the natural sciences and engineering who do not conduct research involving human subjects. It will meet Friday’s 10:25-11:40 for nine weeks starting September 2.

This is a pilot course, so places are limited to the first 30 students. Students can register through UR Student through September 14, or by contacting Tuition is covered for PhD students by their waiver.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections on the Newsletters website.

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Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.