Eye-tracking In-person Research

In this study, we will present a series of validated eye tracking paradigms (e.g., images of faces, videos of social interactions) while we monitor eye movements and physiological arousal. Two research assistants will also collect behavioral reports of ASD and ADHD symptoms from 8-12 years old participants. These data will allow us to examine how and if eye movements, arousal, and questionnaire outcomes differ between children with ASD and ADHD. By combining eye tracking/arousal measures and behavioral assessments, we will then draft a map of how these social cognitive traits manifest in eye movements.

What are the goals of the study?

The primary aim of this study is to test the utility of a social cognitive battery incorporating psychophysiological measures to differentiate between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What will happen during the visit or online?

A brief telephone screening will be conducted to determine if the child and family are interested in the study. Then, a research team member will schedule a time for the family to come into the lab for approximately 90 minutes. Prior to the visit, parents will be asked to send a copy of a recent diagnostic assessment to confirm diagnosis. During the visit, the participant will come to our lab with their parent. Upon completion of the consent and assent, cognitive screener will be conducted first to the child and then the eye tracking tasks will be administered using the Eyelink 1000. We will ask the child to sit in front of a computer screen, and we will be showing the child some videos and images while the computer will track the child’s physiological response and their eye movements. Parent and caregivers will complete a few questionnaires by the time. Upon completion of all measures, the participant will be given a $20 gift card for their time.

How will this help families?

Families will receive a feedback summary compiling information regarding their responses on questionnaires, including the Conners, SRS, and CBCL. Families will learn about their children’s current condition in behavior performances and cognitive development. If requested by contacting the lab via phone or email (or indicating during the study visit), a 15 minute phone feedback session will be scheduled for the parents with the PI, clinical psychologist, to discuss the results from the questionnaires. This will also offer the PI a chance to address any other questions the parents may have. Participants will also be compensated $20 for their time.

This project will evaluate the effectiveness of MINDful TIME, an 8-week mindfulness-based program designed to improve mental health in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers. MINDful TIME includes weekly psychoeducational group meetings conducted through videoconferencing and use of a commercially available mindfulness meditation app. We will also explore whether caregivers in the treatment group demonstrate improvements in quality of life.

This project is a collaboration between researchers at the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and the Autism Brain Aging Lab at Arizona State University.

Why this study is important: At least half of individuals with ASD experience clinically significant anxiety or depression. Mood symptoms increase significantly from childhood to adolescence and remain elevated during adulthood. Additionally, parents of children with ASD report higher levels of stress than parents of typically developing children or children with other disabilities and may experience higher stress once their children enter adolescence due to increased social-emotional difficulties. Notably, research from our group and others indicates increases in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in both adolescents with ASD and their parents. This project aims to improve mental health among teens with ASD and their parents through a telehealth mindfulness intervention.

What are the goals of the study?

This project will evaluate the effectiveness of MINDful TIME, an 8-week mindfulness-based program designed to improve mental health in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers. MINDful TIME includes weekly psychoeducational group meetings conducted through videoconferencing and use of a commercially available mindfulness meditation app. We will also explore whether caregivers in the treatment group demonstrate improvements in quality of life.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participation involves: 1-2 hour virtual intake visit to determine eligibility; Virtual group intervention sessions (2-hour sessions that meet weekly for 8 weeks); Up to 4 virtual data collection visits before and after participating in the intervention (1-2 hours each).

Teens and caregivers will: Attend an 8-week group telehealth intervention*; Learn strategies that may help with management of stress, anxiety or depression; Receive free access to a mindful meditation app (Ten Percent Happier) and asked to regularly use it throughout the study period.

*If you do not have access to the internet, our team will provide assistance for those who qualify.

How will this help families?

This project aims to improve mental health among teens with ASD and their parents through a telehealth mindfulness intervention.

Dr. Eggebrecht and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are mapping brain function in children with autism spectrum disorder with diffuse optical tomography.

What are the goals of the study?

Dr. Eggebrecht and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis aim to investigate brain function underlying development in children who have or are at risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Children will complete a 1-hour brain imaging scan and developmental testing at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Parents will complete online and phone surveys from home. Families will be compensated $25/hour for their participation.

How will this help families?

We hope that, in the future, society may benefit from study results which increase our understanding of typical and altered development of brain function. We hope that in the future, optical imaging will complement the current brain imaging technologies in the management of a variety of patient populations.

This pediatric autism clinical research study is currently testing the drug, pimavanserin, to see if it is safe and effective in treating irritability and other behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Study participation will last for up to 14 weeks, with a 6-week treatment period. Children who enroll in this study will receive either the study drug or placebo. A placebo looks like the study drug but has no impact on the person taking it. There will be no cost for the study drug or any study-related procedures. You may be compensated for your time and travel. If your child completes the 6-week treatment period, they may be able to enroll in a 52-week, open-label extension study if they qualify. During this open-label study, there is no placebo. Children who enroll will receive the study drug, pimavanserin.

What are the goals of the study?

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate whether an investigational drug might help relieve irritable behaviors associated with Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder that make social interactions and everyday functioning challenging.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Study participation will last for up to 14 weeks, with a 6-week treatment period. Children who enroll in this study will receive either the study drug or placebo. A placebo looks like the study drug but has no impact on the person taking it. There will be no cost for the study drug or any study-related procedures. You may be compensated for your time and travel.
If your child completes the 6-week treatment period, they may be able to enroll in a 52-week, open-label extension study if they qualify. During this open-label study, there is no placebo. Children who enroll will receive the study drug, pimavanserin.

How will this help families?

The evaluation of this investigational drug may help relieve irritable behaviors associated with Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder that make social interactions and everyday functioning challenging.

Research has shown that certain bacteria in the gut produce substances that may enter the bloodstream and reach the brain, which my contribute to some characteristics often co-occurring with autism, such as irritability. Reducing these substances in the gut before they enter the bloodstream is a potential new approach to treating irritability associated with ASD. AB-2004, with its gut-targeted mechanism of action has the potential to fill this unmet need.

What are the goals of the study?

The study medication AB-2004 is designed to adsorb specific substances produced by bacteria in the gut and reduce their levels circulation in the bloodstream. The purpose of this study is to learn if AB-2004 may help improve irritability in adolescents compared to placebo by lowering the levels of these substances. The study seeks to determine if there is an effective dose of AB-2004 in 13 to 17 year olds with ASD.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be examined by the study doctor for any changes to their health, complete a behavioral questionnaire, and participate in blood, urine, and other testing. Blood samples will be collected only 3 times during the study. Participants will take the study medication for 8 weeks and attend 6 clinic visits (lasting 2-3 hours) over 14-16 weeks. Formulated as a tasteless odorless powder, the medication is to be taken 3x/day mixed with any soft food your child may like such as yogurt or apple sauce. You will also be asked to collect urine and stool samples.

How will this help families?

Physicians have reported that irritability impacts a majority of pediatric ASD patients. The presentation of ASD-associated irritability can very with autism severity and age and can be caused by a broad array of different factors including lack of sleep, the inability to communicate pain, and mental health conditions. Currently, there are limited treatment options available for irritability associated with ASD and those that are approved can have significant side effects. AB-2004 offers potential hope of a new therapeutic option for autism-related irritability that might improve patients’ daily lives by avoiding the side effects and risks of currently available medications for irritability of autism.

Interested parents should know that we would like them to have the opportunity to share their story of being a parent to an autistic child. The five-minute Zoom interview is a quick interview to give parents the chance to share their experiences and participate in research. We are enrolling families with autism and other disabilities in the study.

What are the goals of the study?

The study goals are to learn about parents and families of children with autism and other disabilities to better understand their experiences as parents and caregivers and to understand the relationships they have with their children.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Parents will complete an online consent form, questionnaire, and five-minute Zoom interview.

How will this help families?

The research may ultimately lead to a better understanding of how to help families affected by autism and other disabilities to thrive and cope as parents and caregivers.

What are the goals of the study?

We are carrying out an interview research study in the US and Canada which will involve interviews with autistic adolescents and supporters of autistic children and adolescents.
The aim of the study is to understand everyday life with autism and to understand the most important characteristics and impacts of autism that should be measured in future clinical studies. We will use this information to develop a new questionnaire and a personalised goal setting approach in order to measure what matters to autistic people.

What will happen during the visit or online?

● Speak to a researcher during two one-to-one interviews, which should last around 60-75 minutes each
● Talk about the experience/their child’s experience of living with autism
● Give honest feedback about some questionnaires
● In appreciation of your time, you will be reimbursed after each interview (two interviews in total).

How will this help families?

There is no direct medical benefit from being in this study. The information learnt from this study may help researchers and doctors learn more about autism in general. Your child and others with autism may benefit from the results of such research in the future, as we seek to develop a new questionnaire and a personalised goal setting approach in order to measure what matters to autistic people.

Children with ASD experience a wide range of outcomes, and not all children respond effectively to behavioral interventions. There is accumulating evidence of tDCS (mild brain stimulation) being effective in treating the comorbidities as well as the core symptoms of ASD. tDCS is most effective when used simultaneously with behavior intervention. In this study, we will isolate the effects of tDCS alone and in combination with ABA on the executive functioning skills and the core symptoms of ASD and monitor the results using an objective neurophysiological test (EEG).

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to see if transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) when used during ABA therapy improves learning in children with ASD. If your child takes part in the research, s/he will receive tDCS while receiving her/his ABA therapy.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Your child will participate in the study for a total of five months. S/he will receive 20 sessions of tDCS as well as 20 sessions sham (fake) tDCS. Each session is 20-mins long. A resting electroencephalogram (EEG) using a portable headset will be obtained about one time per month. Most study procedures will be done remotely but several in-person visits are required.

How will this help families?

Potential benefits of tDCS are improvements in executive function skills, decrease in the core symptoms of ASD, and/or greater learning acquisition during ABA therapy in study participants. However, there may not be any benefit at all – that is why we are conducting this study.

The genetic changes we study in TIGER3 have been connected with autism and developmental disabilities, but we are just beginning to learn how those changes might affect each person and family differently, and what effects might be shared versus unique across those genetic variants. By learning more about the shared and unique effects of these rare variants, we aim to contribute to (1) better understanding of co-occurring medical and behavioral conditions, and (2) development of individualized supports for affected individuals and their families.

What are the goals of the study?

In the TIGER research study, we are learning more about individuals with genetic events associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID), and/or developmental delay (DD). We hope to better understand and describe how different gene changes influence the development, behavior, and experiences of children and adults. Individuals with these genetic changes may have neurodevelopmental differences that we would like to better understand.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Eligible families participate in a consent phone call, and are then invited to complete a series of video- or phone calls to assess for autism-associated features, adaptive skills, cognitive skills, and medical history. Caregivers are also invited to complete a variety of online questionnaires, including measures of adaptive behavior, treatment history, sleep habits, gastrointestinal symptoms, social-emotional functioning, and executive function. Biospecimen (blood or saliva) collection is completed remotely. Finally, families are offered a feedback session with a clinician and a written report of standardized measures and recommendations.

How will this help families?

Families will be compensated $100 for their participation. Participants may receive feedback about their family’s genetic event(s). Families will also receive written and/or verbal feedback regarding adaptive behavior, social communication skills, language skills, and cognitive skills as available from completed study activities.

There is a need for detailed and reliable information on the prevalence of alcohol and drug use among adolescents and young adults with ASD. This study will produce important new knowledge about this, as well as verify or refute risk and protective factors of alcohol and drug use within this population. Study findings will help inform identification and prevention/intervention work.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to learn more about the development and experiences of adolescents and young adults (age 12-24) who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as they navigate from adolescence to early adulthood. We are especially interested in their exposure to alcohol and other drugs.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participation involves 4 visits over 3 years and consists of short interviews and questionnaires. Visits can be done in-person or remotely. Each visit is one year apart. There is also a parent/guardian component for parents/guardians of eligible youth.

How will this help families?

Findings from this study will help researchers learn more about what helps and hinders development in persons who have been considered to be on the spectrum. This will help inform future research and assist in the identification, prevention and intervention work associated with alcohol and drug use disorders.

The goal of this study is to understand how autistic adolescents feel about common intervention goals and strategies used to support autistic children and young people. Autistic people have not historically been a part of the development of these interventions and autistic advocates have voiced concerns saying that these interventions are unethical and caused harm to autistic people. It is important to seek autistic feedback to determine where these practices fail to align with the values of autistic people and where they can be improved.

What are the goals of the study?

A primary goal of the study is to understand how sensory processing develops over adolescence. We hope to identify neurobiological mechanisms related to sensory over-responsiveness (SOR) with the goal of informing the development of targeted interventions.

What will happen during the visit or online?

The researcher will set up a time to meet with the teen (participant) and their parent via zoom or in person, depending on location and preference. During the meeting, the parent and participant will participate in a consent/assent process. Once both parties consent/assent to participate, the teen will be sent the survey link and answer the survey items. If preferred, they can have the survey items read to them and the researcher can fill out the survey based on their dictated answers. The survey will take approximately 30-45 minutes.

How will this help families?

There are no direct benefits to participants or families. However, we hope that the findings from this study will help clinicians provide supports to autistic children and young people that are more in-line with what the autistic community desires.

What are the goals of the study?

We are interested to explore how both neurotypical and autistic adolescents and adults initially perceive people in conversations. To explore whether perceptions of the adolescent in the video are different depending on a participants age or diagnosis. Furthermore, the second part of the survey will state if the adolescents in the video has autism or not, we would like to discover whether this will alter participants initial perception and or judgement of the conversation.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will watch videos (without sound) of an adolescent having a conversation with two people you can’t see in the video, then state their initial perceptions of the adolescent using slider bar questions.

How will this help families?

Could provide insight for families into how their autistic adolescents may perceive social situations, how they interpret other peoples conversations. Similarly if Adults with autism participate the research highlights how communication is expressed differently, promoting a non judgmental mindset or potentially a deeper understanding of how people can be perceived no matter the social situation.