Autism Spectrum Disorder

From the autisticook blog

Autism is characterized by social difficulties (e.g., perceiving, interpreting and responding to the intentions and behaviors of others) and non-social difficulties (e.g., sensory and motor atypicalities). Understanding the relationship between social and non-social difficulties in ASD is a major challenge for researchers: Do these difficulties equally contribute to the condition or is one a primary cause? Are these relationships present across the autism spectrum? Do they share the same pathogenesis or do different causes drive them?

Studying the sense of smell in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a promising tool to answer these questions. Indeed, smelling is a byproduct of involuntary breathing which often occurs outside of conscious awareness, making it a tool usable across the spectrum. For instance, my research demonstrates that body odors continuously transfer a wealth of social information among individuals (see Body Odors for more details), and that odor-driven actions can positively impact social behavior [through automatic imitation] (

Additionally, investigating the development and the multisensory features of body ownership in ASD (see my work on the numbness illusion allows to determine how atypical self-other interactions are initiated and navigated.

My research in this area investigates the neurobiological basis of social cognition and sensory perception in individuals with ASD using behavioral, psychophysiological and neurophysiological techniques.

Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology