Behind starburst eyes

Research Proposal

on April 6, 2022

I applied for multiple different Masters programs for this fall. I have one left to hear from, but the rest have said no so far. For one of the courses I have in my last term for my B.Sc.(Hons) I had to write a short synopsis of a research proposal. It was really hard to write because I was truthful and simply wrote what I’d hoped to study for my Masters in Psychology. I’m pasting the brief synopsis below, because after 4 years chasing a dream only to be rejected now, I don’t want to feel like my idea will never be seen or considered by anyone other than myself.

Research Synopsis:

With the rate of diagnosis on the rise for Autism, there are many who look for ways to help Autistic children diminish what are seen as non-normative behaviours and one of the most prevalent methods utilized in North America is applied behaviour analysis (Keenan et al., 2015). 

One of the key purposes of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy is to help Autistic children regulate their emotions (Frolli et al., 2021). ABA is believed to help by looking at external factors and using positive reinforcements to obtain desired behaviours and negative punishment to extinguish undesired behaviours  (Sandoval-Norton & Shkedy, 2019). While on the outset the data from ABA often shows marked increases in various skills or abilities, it shows those behaviours or skills as prompt dependant (Sandoval-Norton & Shkedy, 2019). Prompt dependency would limit the development of intrinsic motivation which would limit their ability to meet the core psychological need of autonomy (Reeve, 2017). Additionally, according to Sandoval-Norton & Shkedy’s (2019) study, ABA is often very psychologically damaging. If something is producing harm as a by-product of producing the results that are desired, another method needs to be investigated to produce those same results without harm. However, in order to create a new method of therapy that is both effective and non-harming, one has to understand the true root of an issue. This is where this study comes in. 

Neurotypical people undergo significant neural pruning that is not seen in Autistic brains (Frith 2003; de Silva 2018). Neural pruning assists with the removal of synaptic pathways not used frequently or those not needed for optimum efficiency (Frith 2003). Those additional neural pathways may be providing additional information that is creating a greater threat response than is actually needed in the situation. 

Studies such as Avino et al., (2018), have shown that there is an increase in the degeneration of the amygdala in Autistic brains at higher levels than those who are not Autistic. This quantifiable component suggests to us that it is not an overall emotional regulation issue, but instead is specifically a continually heightened state of threat perception at work. 

I theorize that the lack of neural pruning seen in Autistic brains increases the amount of response generated in the amygdala which creates the emotional dysregulation seen. Therefore it is not in fact a dysregulation issue, it is actually an inaccurate threat response. By honing in on the specific methodology of the brain in producing the emotional dysregulation seen, harmful therapies such as ABA can be discontinued and a new therapy that focuses on teaching more accurate threat perception can begin.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: