Noah Sasson

Associate Professor - Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Tags: Psychological Sciences

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Developmental Psychology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - 2005
B.A. - English
Franklin and Marshall College - 1997

Research Areas

Research Interests

My research attempts to understand the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that contribute to social dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). By comparing the visual attention patterns of individuals with and without ASD as they view stimuli and engage in various social cognitive tasks, I hope to gain insight into how different people perceive and process social information. The ultimate goal of my work is to identify specific factors underlying impairments in social functioning that may be amenable to treatment and intervention. I am also interested in how these factors may differ from those in other disorders (e.g., Schizophrenia) that are diagnostically and etiologically distinct from ASD but overlap in aspects of social dysfunction.

Additionally, I conduct research that examines repetitive behaviors and restricted interests in ASD. Some of my recent work, for example, has involved quantifying the nature of circumscribed interests in ASD and whether the presence of these interests interferes with other normative developmental processes.

Publications

Sabatino, A., Rittenberg, A., Sasson, N. J., Turner-Brown, L., Bodfish, J. W., & Dichter, G. S. (in press). Functional neuroimaging of social and nonsocial cognitive control in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. forthcoming - Publication
Sasson, N. J. & Touchstone, E. W. (in press). Visual attention to competing social and object images by preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. forthcoming - Publication
Sasson, N. J., Nowlin, R., & Pinkham, A. E. (in press). Social cognition, social skill and the broad autism phenotype. Autism: the International Journal of Research and Practice. In Press - Publication
Elison, J. T., Paterson, S. J., Wolff, J. J., Reznick, J. S., Sasson, N. J., Gu, H., Botteron, K. N., Dager, S. R., Estes, A. M., Evans, A. C., Gerig, G., Hazlett, H. C., Schultz, R. T., Styner, M., Zwaigenbaum, L., & Piven, J. (2013). White matter microstructure and atypical visual orienting in 7 month-olds at risk for autism. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 899 -908. 2013 - Publication
Sasson, N. J., Lam, K. S. L., Parlier, M., Daniels, J. L., & Piven, J. (2013). Autism and the broad autism phenotype: Familial patterns and intergenerational transmission. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 5:11. 2013 - Publication
Sasson, N. J., Lam, K. S. L., Childress, D., Parlier, M., Daniels, J. L., & Piven, J. (2013). The broad autism phenotype questionnaire: prevalence and diagnostic classification. Autism Research, 6, 134 -143. 2013 - Publication
Sasson, N. J., & Elison, J. T. (2012) Eye-tracking young children with autism. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 61, e3675, DOI: 10.3791/3675. 2012 - Publication
Sasson, N. J.*, Dichter, G. S.*, & Bodfish, J. W. (2012). Affective responses by adults with autism are reduced to social images but elevated to images related to circumscribed interests. PLoS ONE, 7(8): e42457. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042457. *co-first author 2012 - Publication
Dichter, G. S., Felder, J. N., Green, S. R., Rittenberg, A. M., Sasson, N. J., & Bodfish, J. W. (2012). Reward circuitry function in autism spectrum disorders. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 160-172. 2012 - Publication
Sasson, N. J., Brown, L. T., & Piven, J. (2012) Neurodevelopmental mechanisms in childhood psychopathology: The example of abnormal social orienting in autism. Cognitive Neuroscience, Development, and Psychopathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012 - Publication

Appointments

Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Dallas [2009–Present]
Post-doctoral Fellow
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia [2008–2009]
Post-doctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania [2007–2008]
Post-doctoral Fellow
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [2005–2006]
National Science Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [2002–2005]
Teaching Fellow
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [2001–2002]
Teaching Assistant
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [2000–2001]
Research Assistant
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill [1999–2000]
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center

Projects

Cognitive Control of Social and Non-Social Information in Autism: An fMRI Investigation
2018–2018 Sabatino, A., Rittenberg, A., Sasson, N., Bodfish, J. W., & Dichter, G. (2010). To be presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The other-race effect in face processing among African-American and Caucasian individuals with schizophrenia
2018–2018 Pinkham, A. E., Sasson, N. J., Calkins, M. E., Richard, J., Hughett, P., Gur, R. E, & Gur, R. C. (2007, December). Presented at American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Boca Raton, Florida. 
Age-related changes in the perception of configural and featural information in faces and houses
2018–2018 Sasson, N. J. & Reznick, J. S. (2003, April). Presented at the biannual meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development, Tampa Bay, Florida.
Autism and Schizophrenia share an impairment in fixations to social stimuli
2018–2018 Sasson, N. J. , Tsuchiya, N., Hurley, R., Couture, S., Penn, D., Adolphs, R., & Piven, J. (2006, June). Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Montreal, Canada.
An Exploration of Infant Working Memory
2018–2018 Pelphrey, K. A., Reznick, J. S., Goldman, B. D., Sasson, N., Morrow, J. (1999, October). Presented at the inaugural meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, Chapel Hill, NC.

Additional Information

Honors and Awards
  • 2002-2005 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Recipient
  • 2003 Student Travel Award, Society for Research in Child Development
  • 2001-2002 Teaching Fellowship, Department of Psychology, UNC-Chapel Hill
Personal Statement

Noah Sasson received his PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in 2005. He has held post-doctoral research fellowships at the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center at UNC, the Brain Behavior Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His work investigates the development of the perception, processing and interpretation of social information.

Editorial Experience
  • Ad Hoc Peer Reviewer
    • Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice
    • Biological Psychiatry
    • Brain Sciences
    • British Journal of Psychology
    • Child Development
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Developmental Science
    • Infant and Child Development
    • Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
    • Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
    • Journal of Cognition and Development
    • Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition
    • Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
    • Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
    • Journal of Nonverbal Behavior
    • Neuropsychologia
    • PloS ONE
    • Psychiatry Research
    • World Journal of Biological Psychiatry

News Articles

School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Honors Faculty, Recent Graduates with Awards
According to associate professor Dr. Noah Sasson, most students walk into his research methods class prepared to dislike it. His goal is to change their thinking. 

“My job is to convince them not only how important it is for them to get a good understanding of research methods, but also that their minds can be trained to think more scientifically about the world around them,” Sasson said. “Even for students who don’t go on to a research career, having an appreciation for the kind of rigor and scientific approach to evaluating evidence is incredibly important in today’s world.” 
Sasson’s focus on engaging students and helping them think critically were instrumental in his being awarded the 2017 Aage Møller Teaching Award, one of several honors given to faculty members and students in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). 
BBS Researchers to Explore Social Cognition in Two Disorders
UT Dallas researchers will receive more than $400,000 from the National Institutes of Health to research differences in social cognition between people living with schizophrenia and those with autism spectrum disorder.
Social cognition refers to the mental skills a person uses to interpret social cues in the real world, such as recognizing that someone who keeps checking their watch likely doesn’t have time to chat. 
“You’ll see a lot of superficial similarities between autism and schizophrenia in their social impairments — they both have problems with social interactions, they both have difficulties understanding social norms or navigating social challenges,” said Dr. Noah Sasson, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and lead investigator on the grant. “But really we’re trying to hone in on what’s at the root of these impairments for the two groups, and we have good reason to believe that’s very different.”
Study: Social Biases Contribute to Challenges for Those with Autism
A new study by a UT Dallas professor found that negative first impressions formed by potential social partners may reduce the quality of social experiences for people with autism. 

The study was co-authored by Dr. Noah Sassonand doctoral student Daniel Faso in collaboration with researchers at Indiana University and Emerson College. In the study, non-autistic participants reported their first impressions of individuals with autism from videos of them during social interaction. 
The researchers found that the people with autism were rated similarly to non-autistic adults on trustworthiness and intelligence, but less favorably on likeability and awkwardness — traits that are important to connecting with other people. Participants watching the videos also reported greater reluctance to pursue social interaction with the adults with autism. Colleagues at Emerson College reported similar findings for children with autism.
Regents Recognize Pair of Educators as Among the Best in UT System
Dr. Noah Sasson and Dr. Amandeep Sra have been honored as two of The University of Texas System’s best educators.

The University of Texas at Dallas faculty members received the 2019 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. They are among 27 honorees from the state’s 14 academic and health institutions who will be recognized Aug. 14 at the Board of Regents’ meeting in Austin. Each will receive $25,000, a medallion and a certificate for their achievements.

Sasson, an associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), was the 2017 recipient of BBS’ Aage Møller Teaching Award. Sra, a chemistry senior lecturer in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM), received the 2018 Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from Iota Sigma Pi, the national honor society for women in chemistry.

Funding

Circumscribed Attention and Social Salience in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
$23,515 - North and Central Texas Clinical and Translational Science Initiative Pilot Grant [2010–2011]
Research Fellowship in Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Research Fellowship [2008–2009]
Schizophrenia: A Neuropsychiatric Perspective
- IH/NIMH [2007–2008]
Postdoctoral Research in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
- NICHD Postdoctoral Training Fellowship [2005–2006]
Investigating Abnormal Face Perception in Autism
- National Science Foundation [2002–2005]