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Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of Outlining the Diverse Etiologies of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Outlining the Diverse Etiologies of Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder defined by the heterogeneity of its presentations, making diagnosis and treatment for those who need it difficult. Here I examine a set of causal mechanisms which lead to the development of ASD. I support the idea that within and between those mechanisms, what may look like a singular causal tale may instead account for a large variety of individual presentations. I examine how an understanding of the low-level neurobiological mechanisms underlying ASD allows us to begin unraveling the nature of the heterogeneity found in individual and sub-group presentations of ASD.

Understanding the diverse etiologies of ASD can facilitate diagnosis and treatment. It is therefore critical that our understanding of ASD is as nuanced as possible. Here I explore three precipitants of ASD: SHANK3 haploinsufficiency, pre-natal organophosphate exposure, and pre-natal neonicotinoid exposure. I explore why the precipitant is important, how disruption in the mechanisms relevant to the precipitant can lead to ASD, and how mitigating or agitating ancillary factors affect the likelihood of precipitation, severity of effect, and phenotype of presentation of ASD within subgroups and individuals.

Cover page of Industry User Experience Research: A Detailed Account at a Social Media Startup

Industry User Experience Research: A Detailed Account at a Social Media Startup


The field of industry User Experience (UX) Research is applied by large scale companies, small startups, and all in between. Companies rely on this research to understand their target audience and determine how to make their product successful in the hands of the consumer. The present work details the projects completed during a UX Research internship for a startup company developing a social media app and relates these experiences to both the coursework within UC Merced’s Cognitive and Information Sciences’ graduate program and cognitive science as a field. These projects include an analysis regarding a mood tracking feature and comparisons to competitor apps, literature reviews on conflict related to friend groups and teenager/young adult social environments, and beta testing of the app in development.

Cover page of User Experience Evaluation of the Simbrain Neural Network Simulator

User Experience Evaluation of the Simbrain Neural Network Simulator


Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things, once said, “everything is designed.” Our world is surrounded by many physical and digital products, each with its own purpose. The study of design emphasizes making advancements to products and keeping in mind the ease of users' experience. User experience design provides a way to improve products while also creating better usability. This article will provide an overview of user experience and its different applications, along with a review of an educational application called Simbrain. Simbrain was used to teach a summer program called Frontier of Science at the University of Northern Colorado in Summer 2022.  Experiences from this program will be described here.

Cover page of Exploratory Data Analysis: Bias in The Media

Exploratory Data Analysis: Bias in The Media


The sharing of biased information has become an increasingly pervasive issue. This is quite dangerous considering how the exchange of information can influence perceptions, decision-making, and, most importantly, how well we coexist. Accordingly, as our access to information and interactions grow in the wake of the digital age, we must reestablish control for how information is shared and increase accountability for those sharing information. Unfortunately, this is seemingly impossible given the scale of interactions and the complexity of information passed around. Thus, researchers in an experiment by Westmark et al., suggest that gauging people’s ability to detect biased information at the lower group level is where to start to accomplish these initiatives. The present work is an exploratory data analysis of the results from a survey deployed during this experiment, which was used to assess participants’ ability to detect bias correctly. The analysis was designed to provide researchers with different perspectives of the original hypothesis to consider. Although no significant relationships were found, comparisons based on gender and party affiliation displayed interesting information about how well these groups deal with the media information they receive and pass on to others.