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The Development of Face-Processing Abilities in Infants: Structural and Functional Brain Changes During the First Year of Life

May 1, 2021 - December 31, 2022

This approach will allow us to shed light on the sensitive periods in face perception occurring during the second half of the first year of life. The multimodal approach would provide a comprehensive picture of brain structural development and functional activity in response to social stimuli to be integrated with behavioral measures of early signs of autism. The results of these studies will constitute a premise for the examination of changes in the cerebral architecture resulting from specific training with faces.

What are the goals of the study?

The study investigates the relations between developmental changes in white matter fiber bundles and functional responses to faces using a multimethod approach with infants at low and high likelihood of Autism Spectrum Disorder. We will draw a full picture of brain organization and sensitive periods underlying face processing ability identifying developmental changes in structure-function coupling.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will take part in two in-person visits, during which structural and diffusion-weighted imaging scans will be acquired (visit 1) and neural responses to faces and objects will be recorded using EEG (visit 2). During visit 2 early signs of autism will be assessed via the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI). Imaging scans are acquired during the infant’s natural sleep, thus the duration of visit 1 is variable but no longer than 3 hours. Visit 2 would last 1.5 hours. The presence of the primary caregiver is required at each appointment.

How will this help families?

Behavioral assessment using the AOSI would detect early signs of ASD that could be monitored and further assessed with diagnostic tools better suited for clinical purposes. The early monitoring of ASD signs could lead to a prompt initiation of early interventions.

Eligibility Criteria

Full term infants between 10 and 12 months of age with normal or corrected to normal vision. Both typically developing infants and infants at high likelihood of ASD given by an older sibling with ASD diagnosis are enrolled in the study.

View the study flyer here.

Contact Information
Research Study Website
University of South Carolina

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