Special Issue "Cognitive, Emotional and Social Skills in Typical and Atypical Development: Domain-Specific Abilities and Possible Overlaps for Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment"

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 April 2023) | Viewed by 10265

Special Issue Editors

Faculty of Psychology, Niccolò Cusano University, Rome, Italy
Interests: autism spectrum disorders; developmental disabilities
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Stefano Livi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Interests: social psychology; group dynamics
1. Faculty of Psychology, “Niccolò Cusano” University of Rome, 00166 Rome, Italy
2. Department of Psychology of Development and Socialization Processes, “Sapienza” University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy
Interests: developmental neuroscience; neurodevelopmental disorders; autism spectrum disorder; language; figurative language development
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As is well-known, cognitive, social, and emotional skills are widely studied with regard to both typical and atypical developmental profiles.

Scientific research has focused on an increasingly thorough analysis and understanding of these domains and their peculiarities, resulting in a growing interest in exploring all the possible overlaps among these domains, and in turn investigating their greater impact in terms of prevention, diagnosis, and intervention.

This is particularly true for a range of impairments, such as neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorders.

This Special Issue aims to collect works considering these aspects in terms of both specific domain differences and possible overlaps in order to disseminate the latest findings in this field.

Research articles concerning the following research topics (among others) will be considered:

  • Typical and atypical development differences;
  • Cognitive, social, and emotional domain-specific skills;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Autism spectrum disorders;
  • Domain-specific interventions;
  • Domain overlaps in the diagnostic process;
  • Domain overlaps in treatment and intervention.

We are inviting authors and research groups to submit original research, review articles, and commentaries on these topics for this Special Issue.

Dr. Gloria Di Filippo
Prof. Dr. Stefano Livi
Dr. Sergio Melogno
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Brain Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • typical and atypical development differences
  • cognitive, social, and emotional domain-specific skills
  • learning disabilities
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • domain-specific interventions
  • domain overlaps in the diagnostic process
  • domain overlaps in treatment and intervention

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

25 pages, 1718 KiB  
Article
Maternal Variability of Amplitudes of Frequency Fluctuations Is Related to the Progressive Self–Other Transposition Group Intervention in Autistic Children
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(5), 774; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13050774 - 08 May 2023
Viewed by 1236
Abstract
The self-to-other model of empathy (SOME) states that a key reason for the empathic deficiency in autistic individuals is the imbalance of the self–other switch. The existing interventions of theory of mind contain training of self–other transposition ability but combined with other cognitive [...] Read more.
The self-to-other model of empathy (SOME) states that a key reason for the empathic deficiency in autistic individuals is the imbalance of the self–other switch. The existing interventions of theory of mind contain training of self–other transposition ability but combined with other cognitive trainings. The self–other distinction brain areas of autistic individuals have been revealed, but the brain areas of the self–other transposition ability and its intervention have not been investigated. There are normalized amplitudes of low-frequency fluctuations (mALFFs) within 0.01–0.1 Hz and many normalized amplitudes of frequency fluctuations (mAFFs) within 0–0.01, 0.01–0.05, 0.05–0.1, 0.1–0.15, 0.15–0.2, and 0.2–0.25 Hz. Therefore, the current study established a progressive self–other transposition group intervention to specifically and systematically improve autistic children’s self–other transposition abilities. The transposition test with a three mountains test, an unexpected location test, and a deception test was used to directly measure autistic children’s transposition abilities. The Interpersonal Responsiveness Index Empathy Questionnaire with perspective-taking and fantasy subscales (IRI-T) was used to indirectly measure autistic children’s transposition abilities. The Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) was used to measure autistic children’s autism symptoms. The experiment was designed with two (intervention: experimental group vs. control group) independent variables and two (test time: pretest vs. posttest or tracking test) × three (test: transposition test vs. IRI-T test vs. ATEC test) dependent variables. Furthermore, it used eyes-closed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate and compare the relevant maternal mALFFs and average energy rank and energy rank variability of mAFFs of autistic children’s transposition abilities, autism symptoms, and intervention effects. The results showed the following: (1) There were many improvements (pretest vs. posttest or tracking test) greater than chance 0 in the experimental group, such as the three mountains, lie, transposition, PT, IRI-T, PT tracking, cognition, behavior, ATEC, language tracking, cognition tracking, behavior tracking, and ATEC tracking improvements. However, there was no improvement greater than chance 0 in the control group. (2) The maternal mALFFs and maternal average energy rank and energy rank variability of mAFFs could predict the autistic children’s transposition abilities, autism symptoms, and intervention effects with some overlap and some difference in maternal self–other distinction, sensorimotor, visual, facial expression recognition, language, memory and emotion, and self-consciousness networks. These results indicated that the progressive self–other transposition group intervention successfully improved autistic children’s transposition abilities and reduced their autism symptoms; the intervention effects could be applied to daily life and last up to a month. The maternal mALFFs, average energy rank, and energy rank variability of mAFFs were three effective neural indictors of autistic children’s transposition abilities, autism symptoms, and intervention effects, and the average energy rank and energy rank variability of mAFFs were two new neural indictors established in the current study. The maternal neural markers of the progressive self–other transposition group intervention effects for autistic children were found in part. Full article
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18 pages, 1016 KiB  
Article
Cognitive Avoidance Is Associated with Decreased Brain Responsiveness to Threat Distractors under High Perceptual Load
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(4), 618; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13040618 - 05 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1131
Abstract
Cognitive coping strategies to deal with anxiety-provoking events have an impact on mental and physical health. Dispositional vigilance is characterized by an increased analysis of the threatening environment, whereas cognitive avoidance comprises strategies to inhibit threat processing. To date, functional neuroimaging studies on [...] Read more.
Cognitive coping strategies to deal with anxiety-provoking events have an impact on mental and physical health. Dispositional vigilance is characterized by an increased analysis of the threatening environment, whereas cognitive avoidance comprises strategies to inhibit threat processing. To date, functional neuroimaging studies on the neural underpinnings of these coping styles are scarce and have revealed discrepant findings. In the present study, we examined automatic brain responsiveness as a function of coping styles using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We administered a perceptual load paradigm with contemptuous and fearful faces as distractor stimuli in a sample of N = 43 healthy participants. The Mainz Coping Inventory was used to assess cognitive avoidance and vigilance. An association of cognitive avoidance with reduced contempt and fear processing under high perceptual load was observed in a widespread network including the amygdala, thalamus, cingulate gyrus, insula, and frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital areas. Our findings indicate that the dispositional tendency to divert one’s attention away from distressing stimuli is a valuable predictor of diminished automatic neural responses to threat in several cortical and subcortical areas. A reduced processing in brain regions involved in emotion perception and attention might indicate a potential threat resilience associated with cognitive avoidance. Full article
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13 pages, 453 KiB  
Article
Perceiving Oneself to Be Integrated into the Peer Group: A Protective Factor against Victimization in Children with Learning Disabilities
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(2), 263; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13020263 - 03 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1425
Abstract
Bullying is still a widespread social problem that needs serious attention. To date, research on this topic has shown that understanding the phenomenon requires a psychosocial perspective. The primary goal of the study is to identify the factors that contribute to the victimization [...] Read more.
Bullying is still a widespread social problem that needs serious attention. To date, research on this topic has shown that understanding the phenomenon requires a psychosocial perspective. The primary goal of the study is to identify the factors that contribute to the victimization of students with learning disabilities. The hypothesis is that the victimization experiences of this group of students can be explained by some socio-relational dynamics. Using a mediation model, this study demonstrates that perceived social integration completely mediates the association between the presence of learning disabilities and victimization experiences. This implies that students with learning disabilities are primarily victimized when they are not socially integrated into their class group. The implications for diagnosis and treatment are discussed. Full article
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14 pages, 897 KiB  
Article
How Is Working Memory Related to Reading Comprehension in Italian Monolingual and Bilingual Children?
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(1), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13010058 - 28 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1547
Abstract
This study explored how working memory resources contributed to reading comprehension using tasks that focused on maintenance of verbal information in the phonological store, the interaction between the central executive and the phonological store (WMI), and the storage of bound semantic content in [...] Read more.
This study explored how working memory resources contributed to reading comprehension using tasks that focused on maintenance of verbal information in the phonological store, the interaction between the central executive and the phonological store (WMI), and the storage of bound semantic content in the episodic buffer (immediate narrative memory). We analysed how performance in these tasks was related to text decoding (reading speed and accuracy), listening and reading comprehension. The participants were 62 monolingual and 36 bilingual children (mean age nine years, SD = 9 months) enrolled in the same Italian primary school. Bilingual children were born to immigrant parents and had a long history of exposure to Italian as a second language. The regression analyses showed that reading accuracy and listening comprehension were associated with reading comprehension for monolingual and bilingual children. Two working memory components—WMI and immediate narrative memory—exhibited indirect effects on reading comprehension through reading accuracy and listening comprehension, respectively. Such effects occurred only for monolingual children. We discuss the implications of such findings for text reading and comprehension in monolinguals and bilinguals. Full article
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12 pages, 302 KiB  
Article
Anxiety in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Clinical Characteristics and the Role of the Family
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(12), 1597; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12121597 - 22 Nov 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1001
Abstract
Background: Anxiety Disorder (AD) is among the most common psychiatric comorbidity in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Likewise, parental psychological distress (PPD) was linked to anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents with ASD. The aim of this study was to [...] Read more.
Background: Anxiety Disorder (AD) is among the most common psychiatric comorbidity in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Likewise, parental psychological distress (PPD) was linked to anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents with ASD. The aim of this study was to characterise, in a sample of children and adolescents with ASD, anxiety symptoms, the functional impairment associated and the presence of PPD. Methods: Participants were divided into three groups based on their diagnosis: children and adolescents with a diagnosis of ASD + AD, others with a diagnosis of AD but without a diagnosis of ASD, and others with a diagnosis of ASD but without a diagnosis of AD. Results: Group ASD + AD showed lower global functioning than Group ASD and Group AD. Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder and Specific Phobias were more frequent in Group ASD + AD. Our findings also showed higher depressive symptoms in Group ASD + AD, both in the child and parent reports. Finally, parents of the Group ASD + AD revealed higher levels of PPD. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that early assessment of AD with functional impairment associated with the role of PPD could define individualised treatments and consequently mean a better prognosis in children and adolescents with ASD and AD. Full article
9 pages, 606 KiB  
Article
Gaze Fixation and Visual Searching Behaviors during an Immersive Virtual Reality Social Skills Training Experience for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(11), 1568; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12111568 - 18 Nov 2022
Viewed by 1431
Abstract
Children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display difficulties recognizing and interacting with behavioral expressions of emotion, a deficit that makes social interaction problematic. Social skills training is foundational to the treatment of ASD, yet this intervention is costly, time-consuming, lacks objectivity, [...] Read more.
Children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display difficulties recognizing and interacting with behavioral expressions of emotion, a deficit that makes social interaction problematic. Social skills training is foundational to the treatment of ASD, yet this intervention is costly, time-consuming, lacks objectivity, and is difficult to deliver in real-world settings. This pilot project investigated the use of an immersive virtual reality (IVR) headset to simulate real-world social interactions for children/youth with ASD. The primary objective was to describe gaze fixation and visual search behaviors during the simulated activity. Ten participants were enrolled and completed one social-skills training session in the IVR. The results demonstrate differential patterns between participants with mild, moderate, and severe ASD in the location and duration of gaze fixation as well as the patterns of visual searching. Although the results are preliminary, these differences may shed light on phenotypes within the continuum of ASD. Additionally, there may be value in quantifying gaze and visual search behaviors as an objective metric of interventional effectiveness for social-skills training therapy. Full article
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9 pages, 272 KiB  
Article
Computer-Based Assessment and Self-Report Measures of Executive Functions in High-Functioning Adults with Autism
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(8), 1069; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12081069 - 12 Aug 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1461
Abstract
This study analyzes the profile of executive functions (EF) in high-functioning adults with autism (HFA), both in terms of performance on four computer-based tasks, as well as how these functions are perceived by the individuals through self-reporting measures. The study included 64 participants: [...] Read more.
This study analyzes the profile of executive functions (EF) in high-functioning adults with autism (HFA), both in terms of performance on four computer-based tasks, as well as how these functions are perceived by the individuals through self-reporting measures. The study included 64 participants: 32 individuals with HFA, and 32 typically developing controls. Four CANTAB tasks were used (assessing spatial working memory, planning, visual memory, and inhibition), as well as a self-reported measure of executive functions (BDEFS) and a scale for the severity of autism symptoms (RAADS-R). The participants in the ASD group performed significantly lower than the control group on all four computer-based tasks, as measured by the total number of errors made (for the spatial working memory, visual memory, and inhibition tasks) and the number of problems solved at the first choice (for the planning task). No correlation was found in the ASD group between the severity of autism symptoms and the computer-based measures. These findings provide evidence that HFA adults may have various executive functioning impairments, and subsequent daily life problems, but these deficits do not necessarily correlate with the severity of core ASD symptoms. Full article
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