Project 1: Autism & Aging: Accelerated aging?
Participants: We are currently not looking for adults with an autism diagnosis (autism, Asperger, PDD-NOS) as we finished collecting data for this cross-sectional study. We will start a (longitudinal) follow-up study in the coming year. We will post information as soon as we know that we can start with a follow-up study.
Short rationale: You are not as fast as you used to be, you become more emotional, and sometimes you have trouble adapting to a changing environment. In other words, you are aging. These cognitive and emotional changes are related to changes in your brain. What if adapting to changes was already difficult when you were young? What happens during aging if your brain was not optimally functioning anyway? Will everything deteriorate faster, or do efficient compensatory mechanisms develop? Suppose you have autism which is associated with early neurodevelopmental atypicalities in cognitive mechanisms that are known to deteriorate with aging. What happens when common aging-effects kick in? These are the overarching questions of the current project. The goal of this project is to understand what happens on a cognitive level when people with autism age. We ran a series of studies to test the main assumption that aging in people with autism follows a different trajectory (i.e., a steeper decrease) than in people without autism. So far we did not observe a pattern of findings that is suggestive of a steeper decrease. On both a cognitive level as well as on the brain level we hardly observed differences between those with and without ASD. Therefore, in the next study we will focus on a) differences in cognitive strategies and b) subgroup detection.
For a description of this project in Dutch see d’Arc onderzoek.