I am a clinical psychologist at the Center for Autism Research (CAR). My research focuses on the neurobiology of cognitive control, learning, and reward processes in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), as well as children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD). I am particularly interested in genes and brain regions that influence restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests in ASD. Even very high-functioning individuals with ASD can struggle with adapting to unexpected changes and transitions, and we have a limited understanding of how their need for sameness becomes so ingrained. One of my research goals is to identify the brain and genetic mechanisms that contribute to these behaviors with an eye towards reducing the impact of these symptoms.
Another focus of my research is to understand how ADHD symptoms affect children with ASD at the brain and behavior levels. It is only in the last few years that we have come to acknowledge that almost 50% of children with ASD present with some symptoms of ADHD, and about 30% meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. While the ADHD behaviors observed in children with ASD look similar to 'classic' ADHD, the lower success rate of ADHD medications suggests there may be a different brain basis. My goal is to examine the brain basis of attention, impulsivity and distractibility in ASD and in ADHD to determine commonalities and differences so that we may eventually develop better treatments for these symptoms.
Sample of Significant Publications
Kenworthy, L., Yerys, B.E., Anthony, L.G., & Wallace, G.L. Understanding executive function in the lab and in the real world for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychology Review. 2008. 18: 320-338.
Lee, P.S.*, Yerys, B.E.*, Della Rosa, A., Foss-Feig, J., Barnes, K.A., James, J.D., VanMeter, J.W., Gaillard, W.D., Vaidya, C.J., & Kenworthy, L. Functional connectivity of the inferior frontal cortex changes with age in children with autism spectrum disorders: Evidence from an fcMRI study of response inhibition. Cerebral Cortex. 2008. 19: 1787-1794.
Munakata, Y. & Yerys, B.E. All together now: When dissociations between action and knowledge disappear. Psychological Science. 2001. 12: 335-337.
Yerys, B.E., Wallace, Harrison, B., Celano, M.J., G., Giedd, J.N., & Kenworthy, L. Set-shifting in children with autism spectrum disorders: Reversal shifting performance correlates with restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests. Autism. 2009. 13: 523-538.