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Dr Susan Malcolm-Smith

Background and research interests

My research focuses on investigating the ways in which emotion impacts upon and guides adaptive social function. I approach this question from affective neuroscience and neuropsychological frameworks, examining these associations in both healthy individuals, and in clinical populations where difficulties in these domains are marked.

Current projects:

Do opioids reduce the pain of social rejection? Grounded in Pankepp's models of core mammalian emotion systems, this study examines the role of mu-opioids in social loss. Collaborators: Mark Solms, Dan Stein, UCT; Jack van Honk, Utrecht University.

Development of empathy and its role in prosocial vs. antisocial behaviour. This collaborative project is examining this question in children in the Western Cape, and is particularly concerned with how deficits in empathy may contribute to aggressive, antisocial behaviour. Collaborators: Jean Decety, University of Chicago; Cathy Ward, UCT.

Empathy and social cognition in Autism Spectrum Disorders. I supervise a number of postgraduate research projects investigating these questions. We are also running a number of other research projects aimed at examining problems with accessing diagnosis and service delivery for ASD, and are adapting and validating ASD screening and diagnostic tools for the Western Cape context. Collaborators: Colleen O'Ryan, Petrus de Vries, Kirsty Donald, Wendy Vogel, Kevin Thomas, UCT; WUN project with Huso Yi, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Center for Autism Research in Africa.

Teaching responsibilities

The majority of my teaching is on the Masters in Neuropsychology program, where my focus is primarily on training students in paediatrics. The training takes place via neuropsychology clinics at Red Cross Children's Hospital, and at the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCT.

I also teach a Masters level course on Social and Emotional Development from a neuroscience perspective; and I convene a second year course on Cognition and Neuroscience.

Selected publications

Fourie, M.M., Kilchenmann, N., Malcolm-Smith, S., & Thomas, K.G.F. (2012). Real- time elicitation of moral emotions using a prejudice paradigm. Frontiers in Emotion Science. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00275.

Ipser, J., Terburg, D., Syal, S., Phillips, N., Solms, M., Panksepp, J., Meintjes,E., Malcolm-Smith, S., Thomas, K., Stein, D. & van Honk, J. (2013). Reduced fear sensitivity following acute buprenorphine administration in healthy volunteers. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38, 166 - 170.

Hoogenhout, M., van der Straaten, K., Pileggi, L., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (in press). Young children display contagious yawning when looking at the eyes. Journal of Child and Adolescent Behaviour.

Khan, N., Gallo, A., Arghir, A., Budisteanu, B., Budisteanu, M., Dobrescu, I., Donald, K., El- Tabari, S., Hoogenhout, M., Kalambayi, F., Kawa, R., Espinoza, I., Lowenthal, R., Malcolm-Smith, S., Montiel-Nava, C., Odeh, J., de Paula, C., Rad, F., Tarpan, A., Thomas, K.G.F., Wang, C., Patel, V., Baron-Cohen, S., & Elsabbagh, M. (2012). Autism and the grand challenges in global mental health. Autism Research, 5, 156 - 159.

Malcolm-Smith, S., Hoogenhout, M., Ing, N., Thomas, K.G.F., & de Vries, P. (In press). Autism Spectrum Disorders: Global challenges and local opportunities. Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Malcolm-Smith, S., Koopowitz, S., Pantelis, E. & Solms, M. (2012). Approach/avoidance in dreams. Consciousness & Cognition, 21, 408 - 412

Malcolm-Smith, S., Uhlmann, A., Hodge, A. & Ipser, J. (2012). The affective neuroscience of methamphetamine abuse. In G. Ellis, D. Stein, E. Meintjes & K. Thomas (Eds), Substance use and abuse in South Africa (pp. 143 - 155). Cape Town, UCT Press.

Malcolm-Smith, S., Solms, M., Turnbull, O. & Tredoux, C (2008). Shooting the messenger won't change the news: Response to Revonsuo's commentary. Consciousness & Cognition, 17, 1297-1301.

Malcolm-Smith, S., Solms, M., Turnbull, O. & Tredoux, C (2008). Threat in dreams: An adaptation? Target Article. Consciousness & Cognition, 17, 1281-1291.

Malcolm-Smith, S. & Solms, M. (2004). Incidence of threat in dreams: A response to Revonsuo's Threat Simulation Theory. Dreaming,14, 220 - 229.

Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Hoogenhout, M.,Thomas, K.G.F, & Solms, M. (in press). Cradling bias is absent in children with autistic spectrum disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Solms, M. & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2009). Dreaming in neurological conditions. In S. Schokroverty (Ed.), Sleep Disorders Medicine: Basic science, technical considerations and clinical aspects (3rd Ed., pp. 530 - 537.). New York: Elsevier.

Thomas, K.G.F., Malcolm-Smith, S., Ball, M. & Robberts, M. (2009). Contributions of cognitive science approaches to cognitive developmental psychology. In J. Watts, K. Cockroft & N. Duncan (Eds), Developmental Psychology (2nd Ed., pp. 436 - 457). Lansdowne: UCT Press.

Contact details

Tel: 021 650 4605
Room Number: 2.03
Email Address: Susan.Malcolm-Smith@uct.ac.za