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Leslie Carver


My research focuses primarily on the development of the brain basis of social cognition and memory in infancy and early childhood.  In my lab, we use a combination of established behavioral paradigms and event-related potentials (ERP) to address questions about the development of explicit memory, shared attention, social and nonsocial reward processing and anticipation, and social relationships in typically developing infants and children, children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and infants who are at risk for later diagnosis of an ASD. In recent studies, we have tested the social motivation hypothesis (which posits that social problems in ASD may arise from differences in how social and nonsocial rewards are anticipated or processed). Our results suggest that whereas that typically developing children show greater brain activity when anticipating a social than a nonsocial reward, children with ASD show either the opposite pattern or no differences. A true test of the social motivation hypothesis, however, requires a developmental approach, where we can determine whether reward processing differences precede or follow the social problems seen in ASD. To accomplish this, we have been working to develop a reward anticipation paradigm that takes advantage of the ability of young children and even infants to anticipate events that are contingent on events that precede them. We are also working on ongoing studies on the emergence of shared attention in typically developing infants and infants at risk for developing ASD.
  • Stavropoulos, K.K.M. & Carver, L.J. (2018).  Oscillatory rhythm of reward: Anticipation and processing of rewards in children with and without autism. Molecular Autism, 9, DOI 10.1186/s13229-018-0189-5
  • Stavropolous, K.K.M & Carver, L.J. (2016). Neural correlates of attention to human-made sounds: An ERP study.  PLOS One,  11, DOI 10.1186/s13229-018-0189-5.
  • Little, E.E., Carver, L.J., & Legare, C.H.  Cultural variation in triadic infant-caregiver exploration.  Child Development, 87, 1130-1145.
  • Van Etten, H. M. & Carver, L.J. (2015). Does impaired social motivation drive imitation deficits in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder? Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2, 310-319.
  • Stavropoulos, K.K.M. & Carver, L.J. (2014c). Effects of familiarity on reward anticipation in children with and without autism spectrum disorders.  PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106667.
  • Stavropoulos, K. K.M. and Carver, L. J. (2014b), Reward anticipation and processing of social versus nonsocial stimuli in children with and without autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12270
  • Hays, C.** & Carver, L.J. (2014). Follow the liar:  Effects of adult lies on children’s honesty. Developmental Science. doi: 10.1111/desc.12171
  • Stavropoulos, K.K.M.* & Carver, L.J. (2014a).  Reward sensitivity to faces versus objects in children: an ERP study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access, doi: 10.1093/scan/nst149.
  • Stavropoulous, K.K.M. & Carver, L.J. (2013). Social motivation and oxytocin in autism:  Implications for joint attention development and intervention. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 603-618.

Updated June 2018