Joakim Westerlund

Joakim Westerlund


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Arbetar vid Psykologiska institutionen
Telefon 08-16 38 56
Besöksadress Frescati hagväg 8
Rum 8:B 112
Postadress Psykologiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

Om mig

Joakim Westerlund




Jag är anställd som universitetslektor i psykologi, särskilt psykologisk forskningsmetodik och psykometri och undervisar därför framförallt inom dessa områden. Jag har fått min utbildning på Stockholms universitet och förutom psykologi har jag läst filosofi (teoretisk), ADB och lingvistik.

Mina forskningsintressen har varierat över tid och omfattat de mest skilda av psykologins delområden som t.ex. psykofysik (hur upplevelseintensitet kan skattas med Borgskalan i samarbete med Gunnar Borg), omedvetna processer (om personer med "anxiety disorders" omedvetet skannar omgivningen efter hotfulla stimuli, i samarbete med Lars-Gunnar Lund), kognitionspsykologi (hur människor bedömer sannolikheter, i samarbete med Lars Nystedt och Ola Svensson som handledde min doktorsavhandling), metodologiska problem i parapsykologisk forskning (i samarbete med Jan Dalkvist) och klinisk psykologi (barn med autismspektrumstörning och ADHD, i samarbete med Ulla Ek och Elisabeth Fernell). Jag är sedan 2014 affilierad med Gillbergcentrum.

Under de senaste åren har jag tillsammans med Jan Dalkvist, Gergö Hadlaczky och Sebastian Hökby undersökt varför folk tror på paranormala fenomen (t.ex. telepati och märkliga sammanträffanden). I samband med detta har vi varit särskilt intresserade av apofeni ("apophenia"; benägenheten hos oss människor att se mönster och sammanhang även i helt slumpmässiga data) och besläktade kognitiva fallgropar, exempelvis "gamblers fallacy".


Jag är momentansvarig för Vetenskaplig metod och statistik på kursen Psykologi III, Forsknings- och undersökningsmetodik på psykologprogrammets termin 3, Kognitionskursen på logopedprogrammets termin 1 samt kursen Journal Club på forskarutbildningen.


I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas
  • 2016. Lotta Höglund Carlsson (et al.). Acta Paediatrica 105 (7), 823-828

    Aim: This study investigated the results from the national, routine 18-month developmental surveillance at Child Healthcare Centres (CHCs) on children later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Methods: Child Healthcare Centre records of 175 children, diagnosed with ASD before 4.5 years in Stockholm County, Sweden, were reviewed regarding the results of the eight-item neurodevelopmental surveillance. Results were contrasted with normative data from the general child population in Stockholm County. Results: More than one-third of the total ASD group, including half of the group with ASD and intellectual disability (ID), did not pass the required number of items, compared to one in 50 in the general child population. Of those with ASD and ID who had passed, more than one-third experienced developmental regression after 18 months of age. If the CHC surveillance had considered reported regulatory problems - crying, feeding and sleeping - then another 10% of the children with ASD and ID could have been identified during this surveillance. Conclusion: The existing CHC surveillance traced half of the group of children who were later diagnosed with ASD combined with intellectual disability. Adding an item on regulatory problems to the 18-month surveillance would have increased this number by another 10%.

  • 2016. L. Höglund Carlsson (et al.). Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology 48 (3), 285-288

    Objective: To analyze whether the frequency of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a cohort of Swedish children differs between those exposed to ultrasound in the 12th week and those exposed to ultrasound in the 18th week of gestation.

    Methods: The study cohort consisted of approximately 30 000 children born between 1999 and 2003 to mothers who had been randomized to a prenatal ultrasound examination at either 12 or 18weeks' gestation as part of the framework for a study on nuchal translucency screening. The outcome measure in the present study was the rate of ASD diagnoses among the children. Information on ASD diagnoses was based on data from the Swedish social insurance agency concerning childcare allowance granted for ASD.

    Results: Between 1999 and 2003, a total of 14 726 children were born to women who underwent a 12-week ultrasound examination and 14 596 to women who underwent an 18-week ultrasound examination. Of these, 181 (1.2%) and 176 (1.2%) children, respectively, had been diagnosed with ASD. There was no difference in ASD frequency between the early and late ultrasound groups.

    Conclusions: Women subjected to at least one prenatal ultrasound examination at either 12 or 18weeks' gestation had children with similar rates of ASD. However, this result reflects routine care 10-15 years ago in Sweden. Today, higher intensity ultrasound scans are performed more frequently, at earlier stages during pregnancy and for non-medical purposes, implying longer exposure time for the fetus. This change in the use of ultrasound necessitates further follow-up study of the possible effects that high exposure to ultrasound during the gestational period has on the developing brain.

  • 2016. M. Barnevik Olsson (et al.). Journal of autism and developmental disorders 46 (8), 2749-2755

    The study presents neuropsychiatric profiles of children aged 11 with autism spectrum disorder, assessed before 4.5 years, and after interventions. The original group comprised a community sample of 208 children with ASD. Parents of 128 participated-34 with average intellectual function, 36 with borderline intellectual function and 58 with intellectual disability. They were interviewed using the Autism-Tics, AD/HD and other Comorbidities interview. Criteria for a clinical/subclinical proxy of ASD were met by 71, 89 and 95 %, respectively. Criteria for at least one of ASD, AD/HD, Learning disorder or Developmental Coordination Disorder were met by 82, 94 and 97 %. More than 90 % of children with a preschool diagnosis of ASD have remaining neuropsychiatric problems at 11, despite early intervention.

  • 2015. Eva Hesselmark (et al.). Journal of autism and developmental disorders 45 (5), 1156-1166

    Although self-reported measures are frequently used to assess adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the validity of self-reports is under-researched in ASD. The core symptoms of ASD may negatively affect the psychometric properties of self-reported measures. The aim of the present study was to test the validity and reliability of self-reported data using the NEO personality inventory-revised (NEO-PI-R). Forty-eight adults with ASD and 53 controls completed the NEO-PI-R and a psychiatric interview. Results indicate satisfactory internal consistency of the NEO-PI-R, a satisfactory factor structure, predicted correlations with clinician ratings in the ASD group, and predicted differences in personality between the ASD group and controls. In conclusion, the present results support the use of self-reported measures when assessing adults with ASD .

  • 2015. Elisabeth Fernell (et al.). Molecular Autism 6

    Background: Insufficient vitamin D activity has attracted increasing interest as a possible underlying risk factor in disorders of the central nervous system, including autism. Methods: In this study, 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH) D) was analysed in 58 Sweden-born sibling pairs, in which one child had autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the other did not. The study group consisted of two representative samples; 47 Gothenburg sibling pairs with mixed ethnicities and 11 Stockholm sibling pairs with Somali background. 25(OH) D levels were analysed in the stored dried blood spots taken in the neonatal period for metabolic screening. Results: The collapsed group of children with ASD had significantly lower vitamin D levels (M = 24.0 nM, SD = 19.6) as compared with their siblings (M = 31.9 nM, SD = 27.7), according to a paired samples t-test (P = 0.013). The difference was-most likely-not only accounted for by a difference in season of birth between ASD and non-ASD siblings since the mean 25(OH)D levels differed with similar effect size between the sibling pairs born during winter and summer, respectively. All children with African/Middle East background, both the children with ASD and their non-ASD siblings, had vitamin D deficiency. Conclusions: The findings suggest that low prenatal vitamin D may act as a risk factor for ASD, however, there is a need for replication with larger samples. Future research should study whether or not adequate supplementation of vitamin D to pregnant women might lower the risk for ASD in the offspring.

  • 2015. Mona-Lisa Engman (et al.). Acta Paediatrica 104 (8), 792-795

    Aim: The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of congenital cytomegalovirus infection (CMV) in a representative sample of children with autism spectrum disorder. Methods: In a representative group of 115 preschool children with autism spectrum disorder, of whom 33 also had intellectual disability, the dried blood spots from the newborn metabolic screening were analysed for CMV DNA using TaqMan polymerase chain reaction. Results: One of the 33 children with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability - 3% of that group - had congenital CMV infection. The corresponding prevalence in newborn infants in Sweden is 0.2%. None of the 82 children without intellectual disability had congenital CMV. Conclusion: The finding lends some further support for congenital CMV being one of the many aetiologies underlying autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability. The rate of 3% of congenital CMV in children with autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability has implications for the medical work-up. The finding of congenital CMV also indicates the need for repeated hearing assessments in the child. There is a need for similar studies with much larger samples.

  • 2015. Åsa Hedvall (et al.). Journal of autism and developmental disorders 45 (11), 3624-3633

    Clinical predictors of 2-year outcome in preschoolers with ASD were studied in a population-based group of very young children with ASD (n = 208). Children who gained the most (n = 30) and lost the most (n = 23), i.e., increased or decreased their adaptive functioning outcome according to the Vineland Composite Score between study entry (T1) and follow-up (T2), 2 years later were compared. Individual factors that differed significantly between the two outcome groups were cognitive level, age at referral, not passing expected milestones at 18 months, autistic type behavior problems and regression. However, logistic regression analysis showed that only cognitive level at T1 (dichotomized into IQ < 70 and IQ a parts per thousand yen 70) made a unique statistically significant contribution to outcome prediction (p = <.001) with an odds ratio of 18.01. The findings have significant clinical implications in terms of information at diagnosis regarding clinical prognosis in ASD.

  • 2015. Mats Anders Eriksson (et al.). Acta Paediatrica 104 (6), 610-618

    AimSeveral studies have suggested that rare copy number variants (CNVs) are an important genetic contributor to autism spectrum disorders. The aims of the study were to use chromosomal microarray to investigate the presence of rare copy number variants in a population-based cohort of well-characterised young children with autism spectrum disorders and to relate the genetic results to neurodevelopmental profiles and medical conditions. MethodsWe performed chromosomal microarray on samples from 162 children who had been referred to the Stockholm Autism Centre for Young Children in Sweden after being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder between 20 and 54months of age. ResultsPathogenic aberrations were detected in 8.6% of the children and variants of uncertain significance were present in another 8.6%. CNVs were more frequent in children with congenital malformations or dysmorphic features as well as in the subgroup with intellectual disability. ConclusionOur results support the use of chromosomal microarray methods for the first tier genetic analysis of autism spectrum disorder. However, it is likely in the near future that chromosomal microarray methods will probably be replaced by whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing technologies in clinical genetic testing.

  • 2015. Martina Barnevik Olsson (et al.). Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 11, 999-1005

    Background: The aim of this study was to follow up the 17 children, from a total group of 208 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who recovered from autism. They had been clinically diagnosed with ASD at or under the age of 4 years. For 2 years thereafter they received intervention based on applied behavior analysis. These 17 children were all of average or borderline intellectual functioning. On the 2-year follow-up assessment, they no longer met criteria for ASD. Methods: At about 10 years of age they were targeted for a new follow-up. Parents were given a semistructured interview regarding the child's daily functioning, school situation, and need of support, and were interviewed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) and the Autism - Tics, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and other Comorbidities (A-TAC) telephone interview. Results: The vast majority of the children had moderate-to-severe problems with attention/activity regulation, speech and language, behavior, and/or social interaction. A majority of the children had declined in their VABS scores. Most of the 14 children whose parents were A-TAC-interviewed had problems within many behavioral A-TAC domains, and four (29%) had symptom levels corresponding to a clinical diagnosis of ASD, AD/HD, or both. Another seven children (50%) had pronounced subthreshold indicators of ASD, AD/HD, or both. Conclusion: Children diagnosed at 2-4 years of age as suffering from ASD and who, after appropriate intervention for 2 years, no longer met diagnostic criteria for the disorder, clearly needed to be followed up longer. About 3-4 years later, they still had major problems diagnosable under the umbrella term of ESSENCE (Early Symptomatic Syndromes Eliciting Neurodevelopmental Clinical Examinations). They continued to be in need of support, educationally, from a neurodevelopmental and a medical point of view. According to parent interview data, a substantial minority of these children again met diagnostic criteria for ASD.

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Senast uppdaterad: 22 maj 2018

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