Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Molly Helt

Second Advisor

Sarah Raskin


It has been previously demonstrated that contagion of yawning and laughter is significantly reduced in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in comparison to age-matched typically developing (TD) children, but contagion of itch has not been studied in this population. In this study, 55 children with ASD and 55 TD children, all aged 9-14, were exposed to video clips depicting actors yawning, laughing, and itching. In line with previous data, children with ASD demonstrated decreased contagious yawning and laughter in comparison to their TD peers. Surprisingly, they demonstrated increased contagious itch compared to their TD peers. However, susceptibility to contagion of itch and autism severity as measured by total ADOS score were unrelated. In addition, the location of the stimulus itch had no impact on the susceptibility to contagious itch in either group. Potential implications on mirror neuron theory as it pertains to ASD and the origin of mimicry deficits in ASD are explored.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience.