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Theory-of-mind in individuals with Alström syndrome is related to executive functions and communicative skills

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Aim: This presentation focuses on dual sensory loss in individuals with Alström syndrome (AS) and the role of Executive functions (EF) in development of Theory-of-mind (ToM). ToM is defined as an ability to impute mental states to self and to others. AS causes progressive sensorineural hearing loss and juvenile blindness, affecting communication, as well as other organ dysfunctions.
Method: Ten individuals with AS, and 20 nondisabled individuals matched for age, gender and educational level participated. Sensory functions were measured. ToM was assessed by a task taxing ability to understand feelings and thoughts of story characters´, verbal ability by a vocabulary test and EF by tests of updating and inhibition. Information about communicative skills, motor skills and use of aids were obtained from questionnaire responses.
Results: The AS group was outperformed by the nondisabled control group in both the ToM task and the EF tasks. The ability to update information correlated with verbal ability, whereas inhibition was related to the ability to sustain communication. Poorer performance in specifically inhibition was related to odd rhythm of speech and occurrence of motor mannerisms.
Conclusion The significant relation between ToM and EF reflects the importance of EF in developing a capacity to perceive and process input from the social environment in challenging conditions. Early introduction of Braille, but also use of tactile cues in communication may be of importance for optimal ToM development.

Keywords; Alström syndrome (AS), Theory-of-mind, Communication, Executive functions

Author(s):

Hans-Erik Frölander    
National Agency for Special needs Education and Schools. The Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Audiological Research Centre
Sweden

Claes Möller    
School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University; The Swedish Institute for Disability Research; Audiological Research Centre, Örebro University Hospital
Sweden

Mary Rudner    
Swedish Institute for Disability Research; Linnaeus Centre graduate School, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning, Linköping University
Sweden

Sushmit Mishra    
Institute of Health Sciences, Utkal University
India

Jan D Marshall    
Jackson Laboratory, Alstrom syndrome international
United States

Heather Piacentini    
Alström syndrome International
United States

Björn Lyxell    
Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linnaeus Centre, Research on Hearing and Deafness graduate School, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning, Linköping University
Sweden

 

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