Neural mechanism of hyper-rationality in ASD
John Gabrieli, Ph.D., Pawan Sinha, Ph.D.
Liron Received a B.Sc. in Neuroscience from Bar-Ilan University, Israel and a M.Sc. in Human Genetics from Tel-Aviv University. In 2018 she completed her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, under the supervision of Prof. Noam Sobel and Prof. Uri Alon. In her doctoral work, Liron studied behavioral and physiological responses to olfactory stimuli in health and disease. One of her main projects found that a key olfactory respiratory response is altered in ASD, demonstrating a novel link between olfaction and ASD.
A fascinating yet understudied phenotype of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a rational, consistent and bias-free evaluation of information compared to healthy controls. While altered social cognition in ASD is typically considered a deficit, ASD Hyper-Rationality may confer distinctive strengths. A mechanistic understanding of ASD Hyper-Rationality may reveal how neurobiological differences in ASD relate to both difficulties and strengths. This research aims to elucidate the neurobiological basis of hyper-rationalism in ASD, by probing a putative reduction of the optimistic bias in ASD. The optimistic bias refers to the underestimation of one’s chances to experience a negative event, and overestimation of one’s chances for a positive event. Typically developing individuals strikingly maintain their optimistic view by rejecting unfavorable future-related information, but ASD individuals integrate information equally, regardless of its favorability, displaying a lack of optimistic bias. I will use neuroimaging to test the underlying neural correlates of more rational reasoning in ASD. This would be the first mechanistic link between ASD hyper-rationality and altered neural processes.
Keywords: Social cognition, Cognitive bias, fMRI, Rationalism