Job Talk: Dr. Brea Chouinard

Event Details:

  • Start: 1 February 2018 5:00 pm
  • End: 1 February 2018 6:00 pm
  • Venue: Friedman Building – Room 355
  • Categories: Speech Language Pathology


TITLE: Neurobiology of Social Communication

ABSTRACT: Social communication impairments, such as difficulties understanding, building, and maintaining relationships, are characteristic for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By focusing on the neurobiology of social communication, Dr. Chouinard’s research program aims to understand the underlying mechanisms that contribute to social communication and how alterations in these mechanisms can result in ASD-like behaviour. Dr. Chouinard uses behavioural measures and fMRI to elucidate brain-behaviour relationships, with a focus on neural networks and connectivity. One interesting line of Dr. Chouinard’s research is providing insights into brain connectivity similarities and differences, between individuals with and without autism, during tasks with varying executive processing loads. This has led to a novel research stream investigating relationships between working memory and social communication, which is evolving to include applications of a working memory model of language acquisition; this will increase understanding of semantic network development and potential influence on social communication. Current collaborators include researchers in genetics, infant neuroimaging, and resting-state MRI. Broadly, although we know many of the skills required within a social interaction (eye-contact, facial expression, language, etc), Dr. Chouinard’s passion is to understand the brain mechanisms that allow a person to use and manage these skills for successful social communication.

BIOGRAPHY: Dr. Brea Chouinard’s (MSLP, PhD) research program focuses on understanding the underlying brain mechanisms that lead to the signs and symptoms of ASD-like behaviour, with a special interest in social communication. Dr. Chouinard graduated from the University of Alberta with a Masters in Speech Language Pathology (2002) and PhD in Rehabilitation Science (2016). Her research expertise includes behavioural and neuroimaging approaches for investigating social communication, language/semantic networks, and working memory. Her research program includes co-development of these components and emphasizes brain-behaviour relationships. Dr. Chouinard is currently at Trinity College Dublin on a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship, working under Dr. Clare Kelly (Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience) and Professor Louise Gallagher (Trinity Translational Medicine Institute). Brea is leading a clinical study evaluating intensive computerized working memory training and its influence on working memory and social communication in autistic adolescents. In addition to her Marie-Curie Postdoc and being a Killam Scholar, Brea has received funding from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and the CIHR – Autism Researcher Training initiative. Dr. Chouinard’s Google Scholar Author Profile is available here.