The Centre builds on and expands a number of existing multi-disciplinary collaborations. Examples of our current research projects include:
- collaborating on MEG studies of auditory brain function in Williams syndrome
- investigating mental health in children with reading difficulties
- investigating cognitive, academic and social abilities in children with hearing impairment
- investigating cognitive and social abilities in children with social anxiety disorder
- the cognitive predictors of 'cool kids' treatment outcome in children with co-morbid autism and anxiety.
Jon Brock and Melanie Porter One of the most common features of Williams syndrome is an unusual sensitivity to certain sounds, known as "auditory hyperacusis". This has a considerable effect on the quality of life of people with Williams syndrome and their families because it restricts the places they can go to and the activities they can take part in.
At present, we have very little idea of the underlying causes of hyperacusis. Previous research on Williams syndrome has ruled out problems with the workings of the ear itself, so we think that the cause is more likely to be in how the brains of people with Williams syndrome process sounds. In this study we are using magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the brain responses of young people with Williams syndrome to sounds. We're interested in how large the responses are, how the brain activity synchronizes to rapid modulations in the intensity of the sounds, and how they react to unexpected changes in the pitch of the sound.
Genevieve McArthur, Anne Castles, Saskia Kohnen, and Erin Banales There is reliable evidence that poor reading is associated with poor self-concept. However, the reason for this association is not yet known. In this study we are developing and testing a causal model that explains the causal link between poor reading and poor self-concept.
We have tested 75 children with poor reading for three types of reading impairments:
- visible: poor phonological decoding, poor sight word reading; less visible: poor reading comprehension
- two types of perceived negative feedback (from self, from others)
- four types of self-concept (academic, social, parent-home, general)
- three cognitive impairments that often co-occur with poor reading and poor self-concept that will be co-varied out of the analysis (lspoken language, attention, intelligence).
Thus far, the results support the hypothesis that visible reading problems lead to increase feedback about one’s self which lead to low academic self concept.
Melanie Porter, Jennifer Hudson, Heidi Lyneham, Lauren McLellan, Karen Gould, Linda Campbell, Ruth Brunsdon & Ronald Rapee Anxiety disorders are extremely common in neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, Williams syndrome, velo-cardio-facial syndrome, Spina Bifida. However, there is limited research into the efficacy of standard anxiety intervention programs within these disability populations.
The aim of this research is to use a modified version of the existing “cool kids” anxiety treatment program at Macquarie University and to evaluate its efficacy in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. In particular, we will investigate cognitive and demographic predictors of treatment outcome in these groups.
Nicholas Badcock and Genevieve McArthur Since the 1980s researchers have suggested that one causal pathway to poor reading or dyslexia is by auditory processing difficulties. The idea is that difficulties discriminating between speech sounds leads to poor memory representations of these speech sounds.
In turn, when the child comes to the task of reading – learning the correspondence between these speech sounds and letters – these poor representations make the task more challenging than for your average child. Although this makes sense, we’re not sure this is the whole story.
Auditory processing is assessed in lots of different ways and sometimes researchers find poor abilities in children with dyslexia, sometimes they don’t. The aim of our research is to figure out why this is the case. In order to do so, we are separating the learning the stimulus characteristics of the task from actually doing the task. In this way we will separate difficulties with auditory processing from difficulties with the task requirements. We anticipate that some children with dyslexia will have specific difficulties with auditory processing but also that some will have difficulties with managing the task requirements and no difficulties with auditory processing.
Linda Cupples, Teresa Ching, Melanie Porter, Saskia Kohnen & Olivia Munn
It is well documented that children with hearing loss often experience reading difficulties. However, the factors that place these children at most risk of developing ongoing issues with reading and the most common types of reading impairment in this population are, as yet, unknown.
In this longitudinal study we look at over 100 children with hearing loss at two time points (ages 5 and 9 years) and ask:
- What factors (e.g., auditory, linguistic, demographic) at age 5 predict reading abilities at 9 years of age in this population?
- What patterns of poor reading are most common in this population?
Findings will inform the development of literacy training programs specifically tailored for children with hearing loss.
Participate in our research
Our researchers are looking for children with a wide range of conditions to participate in research that could help children, their families and ultimately others with their condition.
Phone: +61 2 9850 6869 (Jon Brock)
Phone: +61 2 9850 6768 (Melanie Porter)
Australian Hearing Hub
16 University Avenue
Macquarie University NSW 2109