Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Peggy C. Nopoulos
Social isolation is commonly reported in individuals with isolated cleft lip and palate (ICLP), and is often cited as due to secondary factors of living with a facial malformation. However, the data are mixed, and the literature is biased to self-report studies. This study aimed to go beyond self-report data, and various components of social functioning were examined in a group of males with and without ICLP. The main aim of the study was to assess and compare social motivation in ICLP, and to relate social adjustment to brain structure. It was predicted that males with ICLP would be more likely to be socially isolated; however, self-concept was predicted to be similar to the comparison group (NC). Additionally, males with ICLP were predicted to have reduced social motivation (i.e., social abulia). Finally, volumes of the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and the cerebellum were predicted to be related to social outcomes. The sample's age range was 13 - 25 years old, and 20 males with ICLP were compared to a group of 20 NC males. MRI scans were obtained from all the participants. As expected, males with ICLP were more likely to be socially isolated. Against predictions, they also had lower self-concept relative to the NC group. However, self-concept was not related to the extent of facial abnormality in the ICLP group. In line with predictions, the study did provide evidence for social abulia as a mechanism for social isolation, as males with ICLP had a more positive attitude after being socially excluded relative to excluded NC males. Unexpectedly however, the groups responded the same to social pressure, as all participants were more likely to take riskier turns in a driving simulator experiment when someone behind them was honking. Finally, social adjustment was significantly correlated with the volume of the mOFC, and posterior cerebellum white matter. Both correlations suggested that individuals with larger volumes were more likely to be better socially adjusted. In conclusion, the study provided evidence for a potentially different mechanism of social isolation in ICLP, and showed that brain morphology may at least partly underlie social dysfunction as well.
brain structure, cerebellum, isolated cleft lip and palate, magnetic resonance imaging, orbitofrontal cortex, social functioning
Copyright 2011 Ellen A A van der Plas