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Current and former CANlab members

Prof. Murray Maybery

Head of CANlab

murray.maybery@uwa.edu.au

Murray graduated with a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of Queensland and began his career in the fields of cognitive and developmental psychology, where he obtained extensive experience in the study of attention, reasoning and memory in neurotypical children and adults. Over the last 15 years he has extended this research with great success to the study of ASD and the broader autism phenotype.

Murray has held fulltime academic positions at the University of Western Australia since 1989, including a period as the Head of the UWA School of Psychological Science for the five years 2012-2016. He is also a member of the Research and Development Committee of the Autism CRC, which meets every six months to guide and oversee research aimed at improving the lives of individuals with ASD and their families. He has been involved directly in two applied projects run through the Autism CRC where the focus is on improving diagnostic practices for ASD, including the development of the Graduate Certificate in Autism Diagnosis which has recently begun at UWA.

See Murray's profile at the UWA Research Repository

Research highlights

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Threatening faces fail to guide attention for adults with autistic-like traits

English, MCW, Maybery, MT, & Visser, TAW
Autism Research – 2017

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Hypermasculinised facial morphology in boys and girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder and its association with symptomatology

Tan, DW, Gilani, SZ, Maybery, MT, Mian, A, Walters, M, & Whitehouse, AJO
Scientific Reports – 2017

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Embedded Figures Test performance in the broader autism phenotype: A meta-analysis

Cribb,  SJ, Olaithe, M, Di Lorenzo, R, Dunlop, PD, & Maybery, M.T.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders – 2016

Dr Diana Tan

Post-Doc

diana.tan@uwa.edu.au

PhD Supervisors:
Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests:
Autism, facial phenotypes, cognition

Diana moved to Perth from Singapore in 2012 to complete her Psychology Honours degree in UWA and obtained her PhD in 2018. Over the years, Diana has gained expertise in the area of autism and facial phenotypes. While facial phenotypes have been reported in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Down syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, autism is not traditionally known to present distinct facial markers. As the face and the brain develop from the same neural crest in concert during pregnancy, her research examines the relationship between the fetal hormone environment, post-natal facial structures and autistic traits. Other research interests include sensory sensitivities and stimulus over-selectivity (i.e., ‘tunnel vision’) in autism.

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See Diana's profile at the UWA Research Repository

Research highlights

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No relationship between autistic traits and salivary testosterone concentrations in men from the general population

Tan, DW, Maybery, MT, Clarke, MW, Di Lorenzo, R, Evans, MO, Mancinone, M, Panos, C, & Whitehouse, AJO
PLoS one – 2018

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Hypermasculinised facial morphology in boys and girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder and its association with symptomatology

Tan, DW, Gilani, SZ, Maybery, MT, Mian, A, Walters, M, & Whitehouse, AJO
Scientific Reports – 2017

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Prenatal testosterone exposure is related to sexually dimorphic facial morphology in adulthood

Whitehouse, AJO, Gilani, SZ, Shafait, F, Mian, A, Tan, DW, Maybery, MT, Keelan, JA, Hart, R, Handelsman, DJ, Goonawardene, M, & Eastwood, P
Proceedings of the Royal Society B – 2015

Dr Michael English

Post-Doc

michael.english@uwa.edu.au

PhD Supervisors:
Troy Visser and Murray Maybery

Interests:
Autism, spatial attention, lateralisation

 

Michael recently finished his studies as a student of UWA, which started with a BSc in Psychology in 2008 and ended with his PhD thesis in 2017, completed under the supervision of A/Prof Troy Visser and A/Prof Murray Maybery. Now a postdoctoral research associate working with his PhD supervisors, Michael continues the line of research he began during his PhD. His research centres on the role that autistic-like traits play in the allocation of attention, with specific interests in attentional lateralization, global/local processing, and emotion processing.

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See Michael's profile at the UWA Research Repository

Research highlights

i

Individuals with Autistic-Like Traits Show Reduced Lateralization on a Greyscales Task

English, MCW, Maybery, MT, & Visser, TAW
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders – 2015

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Modulation of Global and Local Processing Biases in Adults with Autistic-like Traits

English, MCW, Maybery, MT, & Visser, TAW
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders – 2017

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Modulating attentional biases of adults with autistic traits using transcranial direct current stimulation: A pilot study

English, MCW, Maybery, MT, & Visser, TAW
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders – 2017

PhD Students

Hannah Dwyer

hannah.dwyer@uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Murray Maybery, Troy Visser, Michael English

Interests: autism, anxiety, early and late developmental disorders

Anxiety can affect many aspects of our lives, including the way we process early visual information. Given that individuals on the autism spectrum are approximately 40% more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety, the focus of my research is to examine whether anxiety can affect the visual processing abilities of autistic individuals. We would also like to determine whether we can use brain stimulation technology to alter the visual processing mechanisms of individuals on the autism spectrum. The overall aim of the project is to develop a deeper understanding of whether comorbid disorders can impact on cognitive processes, which result in the characteristics commonly associated with autism.

Dominique Cleary

dominique.cleary@telethonkids.org.au 

PhD Supervisors: Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests: early development, developmental disorders, autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition and current research indicates that the developmental trajectory of autism commences very early in life. However, whilst symptoms of ASD are often present within the first 12 months, currently ASD is not reliably diagnosed until the second year of life and often not until several years later. My research focuses on investigating the possibilities of intervention in this early developmental period for infant siblings of children with a diagnosis of ASD, who are known to go on to develop ASD themselves at a higher prevalence than other infants. My research will be examining the efficacy of a new therapy with infants, designed to optimise the post-natal environment of infants from birth, with the goal of optimising social and communication outcomes.

Antonina Loncarevic

antonina.loncarevic@research.uwa.edu.au

PhD Supervisors: Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, very early development, parent-infant interaction

My research is focused on very early interventions for autism in infants and uncovering the factors that may have an effect on the outcome of such interventions. Since very early interventions primarily rely on parents acquiring skills for developing optimal interaction with their child, I am interested in examining how parental factors such as stress, depression, and broader autism phenotype affect parent-infant interaction and subsequently the efficacy of parent-mediated very early interventions. Such knowledge would allow for the development of more sophisticated interventions that capitalize on parents’ strengths and lead to more positive outcomes for infants at risk of ASD. 

Min Quan Heo

minquan.heo@research.uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Troy Visser, Michael English and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, lateralisation, global and local processing

My research largely stems from past findings of a weaker global and stronger local visual-processing style amongst those with autism or high autistic-like traits. In particular, my study will investigate perceptual and attentional systems underlying this difference in the context of hemispheric laterality and inter-hemispheric transfer of information. This would hopefully inform approaches aimed at modulating visual responses and ultimately address domains in autism related to such visual-processing abnormalities.

Kendra Dommisse

kendra.dommisse@research.uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, adaptive functioning, adolescence

Adaptive functioning has been associated with optimal adulthood outcomes such as independent living, employment and positive social relationships. My research aims to examine adaptive functioning profiles at diagnosis and whether they predict functional outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood.

Anna Jorgensen

anna.jorgensen@research.uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Allison Fox, Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, auditory sensitivity, language ability

Auditory symptoms are very common in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autistic individuals can be both very sensitive to certain environmental noises (e.g. balloon bursting) and relatively insensitive to other social sounds (e.g. less responsive to their name being called). These difficulties in the auditory domain may be due to people with autism processing sound information in a different way or in different brain regions to non-autistic individuals. Using brainwave technology, my research aims to understand how people with autism process different aspects of sound and the possible implications of this on language delays and communication difficulties.

Emily South

emily.south@research.uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Colin MacLeod, Ben Grafton, and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, anxiety, attentional bias

It is well-known that anxiety symptoms and disorders are common among individuals on the Autism Spectrum. However, what is not well understood is the cognitive underpinnings of anxiety in this population. Cognitive models of anxiety in the neurotypical population theorise that an attentional bias to negative information plays an important role in the development and maintenance of anxiety. My research aims to investigate whether an attentional bias to negative information is associated with the anxiety experienced by individuals high in levels of autistic-like traits.

Simone Fernandez

simone.fernandez@research.uwa.edu.au 

PhD Supervisors: Andrew Whitehouse and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, lateralisation, language, spatial processing

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum frequently present with language impairments, but tend to outperform age-matched peers on tasks assessing visuospatial abilities. Among the cognitive theories that propose explanations for enhanced visuospatial processing in the Autism Spectrum, the “Thinking in Pictures” account provides an integrative framework for reconciling disparities between language and visuospatial skills. This theory postulates that individuals on the Autism Spectrum are inclined towards visual thinking and display biases against verbal thinking. My research focuses on identifying the preferred style of thinking in non-clinical individuals with autistic traits, using non-invasive brain imaging tools such as Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A clearer understanding of information processing biases in individuals with autistic traits could provide insights into neural mechanisms underlying the cognitive profile of language and visuospatial abilities in people diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition.

Honours Students

Jack Brett

Supervisor: Murray Maybery

My research aims to understand why people with autism find it hard to understand empathic situations and why they show more personal distress in these situations. With the goal of finding interventions to gain better understanding and reduce distress. 

Eve Cotton

Supervisor: Murray Maybery

Past research has found that high levels of autistic traits tends to be associated with reduced creativity, and positive schizotypy is associated with increased creativity. Furthermore, these autistic traits and positive schizotypy have been hypothesised as having a diametrically opposed relationship. My research looks at investigating these relationships within the same study, to see whether this opposition exists in terms of creativity. Alongside this, I am looking at whether communication deficits or repetitive and stereotypic behaviours associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more strongly associated with impaired creativity. Identifying which core symptom(s) are related to creativity may help inform potential treatments and early interventions for ASD. I’m not sure yet what I want to do with my degree – I’m either thinking clinical practice or working in education!

Ashleigh Jackson

Supervisors: Murray Maybery and Diana Tan

Following the ‘extreme male brain theory’ of autism, autistic traits have been linked to hypermasculinised faces and voices. It has also been shown that autistic traits and positive schizotypy traits may demonstrate diametrically-opposed phenotypes. My research aims to investigate the relationship between masculinity/femininity ratings of faces and voices, autistic traits and positive schizotypy traits. This research may elicit possible biological mechanisms underlying autistic and positive schizotypy traits.

Verusha Kander

Supervisor: Diana Tan

My research looks at perceptions of facial masculinity/femininity of individuals with varying levels of social difficulties and repetitive behaviours, two core behavioural dimensions of Autism Spectrum disorder. Examining whether facial masculinity/femininity patterns differ between the dimensions will provide insight into whether the two dimensions have different underlying etiology.

Post honours, I hope to take a year off getting experience in Australia and overseas.

Dureti Said

Supervisors: Murray Marybery and Michael English

There is evidence to suggest individuals on the Autism spectrum typically display an enhanced ability to process elements in the environment individually rather than as a whole. My research focuses on investigating this phenomenon in the context of auditory processing. I’m looking into associations between levels of different autistic traits and the impact of differing tones presented in succession on pitch classification accuracy. The findings should indicate which traits on the autism spectrum, if any, are implicated in the enhanced processing of local elements seen in Autism Spectrum Disorder previously. Upon completion of my Honours I would like to pursue a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a PhD with the intentions of a careen in Clinical or Child psychology.

Lashindri Wanigasekera

Supervisors: Murray Maybery and Diana Tan

 Previous research has indicated that facial first impressions are more negative towards individuals with higher levels of autistic traits. There is also research showing that the two major dimensions of autistic traits—social communication difficulties and repetitive stereotypic behaviours—are largely independent. My research aims to investigate facial first impressions towards neurotypical individuals varying on their level of social difficulties and repetitive behaviours.

I hope to continue with my studies and earn a Master of Clinical Psychology. The exposure to research through Honours has also sparked my interest in a research pathway, so I’m just excited to see what the future holds.

Isabelle Yuen

Supervisor: Diana Tan

I am a second-year Bachelor of Philosophy student who is currently on a Research Placement this semester.

I am assisting Ashleigh Jackson in her project and hope to understand more about what goes on behind the scene in research!

 

RECENT GRADUATES

Congratulations to our graduates

Amelia Host

amelia.host@research.uwa.edu.au

PhD Supervisors: Andrew Whitehouse, Flavie Waters and Murray Maybery

Interests: autism, sleep, cognition

Sleep problems are a major concern for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, with 50%–80% of those diagnosed reporting some form of sleep disturbance. My research is assessing how sleep changes over time, and the relationship between sleep, cognition and behaviour in ASD. Developing a better understanding of the trajectory and impact of poor sleep in children with ASD can help to inform future interventions for sleep in this population. I am also interested in clinical neuropsychology and managing challenging behaviours throughout childhood.

Claire Mitchell

GRADUATED IN 2018

PhD Supervisors: Flavie Waters and Murray 

Interests: hallucinations, cognition, perception

Thesis Title: Non-clinical unusual visual experiences: Measurement and cognitive mechanisms

Hallucinations and other unusual sensory experiences occur in individuals in the general population who are not help seeking and do not meet the criteria for psychosis. Most research to date has focused on auditory verbal hallucinations or ‘voices’, and little is known about other hallucination modalities. My PhD is focused on exploring visual hallucinations in the non-clinical population. Specifically, it has involved the development of a scale to better measure different hallucination modalities (Multi-Modality Unusual Sensory Experiences Questionnaire) and experimental studies looking at the possible cognitive and perceptual mechanism underlying these phenomena based on what we know from clinical populations. This is important in regard to understanding how these experiences are caused and whether they are similar or different those experienced by clinical populations. I am also a registered psychologist completing my Clinical Psychology training with interests in trauma, psychosis, and gender dysphoria.

Previous Members

Past CANlab members and Murray's PhD Graduates

Serena Cribb

2018

Lisa Unwin

2017

Syed Gilani

2016

Candy Cheung

2016

Shayne Rogers

2015

Lauren Hollier

2015

Ryan Li

2014

Lauren Taylor

2013

Suzanna Russell-Smith

2012

Saruchi Chhabra

2012

Renita Almeida

2011

Doris Leung

2011

Barbara Pocklington

2011

Brad Farrant

2010

Emma Grinter

2009

Pia Van Beek

2009

Georgie Paulik

2008

Honey Ng

2007

Martin Churcher

2006

Sharyn Kerr

2006

Andrew Whitehouse

2006

Christina Read

2006

Elizabeth Pellicano

2005

Flavie Waters

2005

Dana Wong

2004

Joyce Chong

2004

Kate Frencham

2004

Ria Kotynia

2001

Janet Briggs

2000

Lisa Chuah

1999

Sue Watt

1999

Angela O’Brien-Malone

1998

Melissa Finucane

1997