The neuroanatomical basis for face processing deficits in autism spectrum disorder

The study of people with new onset face blindness points to a particular brain circuit. We are investigating if this same brain circuit is involved in face recognition difficulty in individuals with autism. If successful, this study may identify new ways to improve face recognition ability.

What are the goals of the study?

Some individuals with autism have difficulties related to face processing and recognition, which can have substantial effects on everyday life. For this study, we hope to figure out where these face processing difficulties arise in the brain. This research could help us provide targets for treatment and could aid in the development of biomarkers for future detection.

What will happen during the visit or online?

The study involves one virtual visit and one visit to Boston Children’s Hospital. The first study visit will involve a series of computer activities designed to measure face processing and should last around 2 hours. The second study visit will involve an MRI, during which the participant will complete additional face processing tasks. This second visit may last up to 3 hours. In between these two visits, we will also share a link to some questionnaires to be completed online by the participant and a caregiver.

How will this help families?

It may lead to new treatments for face recognition difficulties which may help social development.

This is the first study to consider the neural indices of cognitive inflexibility in autism. Since cognitive inflexibility is related to core autism features, we hope that findings from this project will support the field’s goal to inform prevention and treatment interventions to inform personalized interventions that address specific outcomes.

What are the goals of the study?

This study seeks to examine core behavioral and neural presentations associated with cognitive inflexibility (CI) in both autistic and non-autistic youth. The current project is also aimed at validating specific neural indices associated with CI and better understand links between neural indices and behavioral presentations of CI. This study will further examine relations of CI to core autism symptoms (i.e., social communication deficits and RRBs), as well as co-occurring psychopathology that cause significant impairment.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will complete behavioral assessments (ADOS, DKEFS, EFCT), cognitive assessment (KBIT), an EEG task, and self-report measures. Parents will also complete parent-report measures.

How will this help families?

Upon request, the research team will provide a research report of all assessment results (including ADOS) that can be shared with other service providers, schools, etc.

SOR is a highly prevalent feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). SOR can be highly disruptive yet there are few treatments to deal with this discomfort. This study can validate a readily available medication to be used as a treatment for SOR.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of the study is to examine the short-term effect of propranolol on observed sensory over-responsiveness (SOR) behaviors. The study will also look at biomarkers (heart rate, sweat response, neural activity) associated with a SOR response to characterize the effect of propranolol.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will take medication at two time points and then complete an MRI and sensory games. Families are also asked to complete questionnaires as part of the study. Short cognitive assessments may be completed to confirm eligibility for the study.

How will this help families?

Participating in this study will allow families to see if propranolol is an effective intervention for SOR and can help with discomfort or distress associated with it. This study can also lead to clinical trials aimed at finding more treatments for ASD individuals with SOR.

This study will look at how our participant’s sensory processing changes as they develop into adolescents. This is an important period of growth and can greatly inform us about what changes the brain undergoes during this time, something that can be useful for future studies.

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?

Participants will complete an MRI as well as some sensory games and questionnaires. There are some short cognitive assessments done to confirm eligibility for the study.

How will this help families?

Our study provides research reports to families describing their child’s sensory processing abilities in relation to their peers. This research may also help inform future research into treatment for sensory over-responsiveness (SOR)

By learning more about how the ASD brain in children, we can help establish ways to identify and intervene in ASD early. If ASD is identified at young ages, resources such as social supports can bolster long-term adaptive functioning in children with ASD. Also, increased understanding about the mechanisms that underlie atypical social functioning in ASD will allow science to develop targeted, effective assistance for these youth as early as possible.

What are the goals of the study?

This project aims to further understand what makes the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) unique. Specifically, this study is interested in helping us understand how neural processes in the developing ASD brain contribute to atypical social functioning. A promising new method of assessing brain activity called “phase-amplitude coupling” will be measured via non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) technology.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Both children who do and do not have ASD will be invited to participate in an EEG, play computer games during the EEG, and fill out self-report questionnaires with the help of a trained researcher. Parents of participating children will also fill out related surveys. This study is comprised of two visits spaced out over several months.

How will this help families?

Increased understanding about the mechanisms that underlie atypical social functioning in ASD will allow science to develop targeted, effective assistance for these youth as early as possible.

What are the goals of the study?

We are currently working on a project that aims to better understand how autistic people are influenced by sensory information (sights, sounds, etc.) while walking. In our current study, we are asking people to walk on a mat while they wear a virtual reality headset where they look at a sidewalk that is empty or a sidewalk that is in a busy area (pedestrians, billboards, etc.). While wearing the headset they will also hear sounds that correspond to these sidewalk situations (either silence or the types of noises you would expect if you were walking down a busy sidewalk). While they are walking, we record the pressure their feet exert on the mat and we compare these pressure patterns across the different conditions (busy and empty sidewalk, loud and quiet noise), to study whether different amounts of sensory information influence walking patterns.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be asked to fill out questionnaires, solve puzzles, and walk on a sensored mat while wearing virtual reality goggles.

How will this help families?

The study will help us to inform the development of environments that are more accessible for people with autism.

What are the goals of the study?

Researchers from Rutgers University are recruiting children/adults and their parents or caregivers for a research study assessing the utility of a diagnostic interview for autism evaluations.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Children/adults will complete questionnaires (if able) and one 2-3 hour diagnostic evaluation. Parents/caregivers will complete questionnaires and two 2-4 hour interviews. A 1-hour feedback session to review test results.

How will this help families?

Families who complete the study will receive a brief written summary of results from their assessment and a $75 gift card.

Sensory-based interventions are commonly prescribed by occupational therapists in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental disorders. However, while there is emerging evidence for Ayres Sensory Integration therapy in individuals with IQs above 65, many studies evaluating the efficacy of various sensory-based interventions have demonstrated low or insufficient strength of evidence. This study aims to pinpoint interventions that might be promising candidates for targeted trials based on prevalence and perceived efficacy in a large community sample.

What are the goals of the study?

The purpose of this research study is to identify the sensory interventions and strategies that caregivers consider the most effective at treating or managing their child’s sensory reactivity symptoms.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you agree to take part in this research, you will be asked to complete a 5-10 minute anonymous survey, which will ask you to identify your child’s sensory preferences and your satisfaction with the sensory interventions you use currently or have tried in the past.

How will this help families?

By participating in this study, caregivers of children with autism can share their experiences with the sensory interventions that have worked best for their child. The goal of this project is to use these responses to drive future research to improve the efficacy and accessibility of these strategies.

Individuals with autism can have reduced awareness of what strengths they possess. This can associated with lower self-esteem, mood disorders, and negative repetitive thinking about one’s self. This study is looking to explore strength awareness in adolescents with autism, in hopes to investigate the effects of improving strength awareness

What are the goals of the study?

We are looking to evaluate how young adults identify and express their own personal identities.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Fill out surveys via a secure research platform asking about experiences, mood, and how one describes oneself (roughly one hour, can be completed over separate sessions) 2. Parent or legal guardian will fill out surveys about their child (roughly one hour).

How will this help families?

Decreased strength awareness can be problematic for children as they transition into adulthood. It can cause reduced ability to advocate for oneself in relationships, school settings, and during employment. This study is evaluating strength awareness in adolescents with autism to further research the effects of decreased and increased strength awareness.

Individuals with autism are significantly under-employed, and those within 2 years of high school graduation experience the most significant risk of unemployment. If successful, this research study will result in a novel intervention that enhances interviewing skills that may lead to better employment outcomes. While the primary goal of the study is to improve character strength identification in the context of a job interview, it could potentially expand to other areas in life as well.

What are the goals of the study?

We are looking to evaluate how effective a strength-based intervention my be in improving job interview skills in young adults.

What will happen during the visit or online?

A baseline testing session, lasting roughly 2 hours. 2. After this testing session, each participant will be randomly placed into a “training group” (which will participate in 9 online sessions lasting 60 minutes each) or the “control group” (which will do nothing but will receive the training material to use on their own after study completion). 3. All participants will participate in a follow-up testing session, lasting roughly 2 hours. 4. After the follow-up session, participants will be contacted in 6 month by phone call.

How will this help families?

Inability to obtain work can lead to negative outcomes including reduced ability to establish financial independence and reduced satisfaction of life. In hopes of better employment outcomes for individuals with autism, this research study examines a novel intervention to enhance job interview skills.

While there have been large-scale genetic analyses of autism spectrum disorder, there have been little efforts to investigate this in Hispanics and Latina/Latino populations (henceforth Latinx), the largest minority population in the United States. Inclusion of under-represented populations in genetic studies is important both for scientific reasons and for equity. The genetic architecture of ASD is complex and ongoing efforts to decipher it have focused on both common and rare genetic variants and investigating whether the genetic architecture differs across ancestral populations is important in order to have informed care and risk factors for underrepresented groups.

What are the goals of the study?

The central purpose of this project is to collect genetic and phenotypic information about childhood psychiatric conditions, with the aim of finding links between core symptoms, cognitive ability, and underlying neurobiological mechanisms. To better understand and investigate the genetic risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in people through observation of its genetic architecture across ancestral populations. Specifically, we aim to further our understanding of ASD in Hispanic/Latinx populations, the largest minority population in the U.S. and an admixed population.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participating in the study typically requires two in-person visits, one for an autism evaluation and one for IQ testing and DNA Collection. The DNA Collection can either be a blood draw or saliva collection; we collect DNA from the person affected with ASD and two biological family members. Furthermore, there is a zoom interview between a clinician and parent for our children participants and online forms that must be filled out. Families will be compensated $100 and will receive a report of the assessments completed.

How will this help families?

Families will be able to receive a report of all assessments done and receive compensation. Receiving an appointment for an autism evaluation and updated reports can often take several months to years, while here it takes a couple of weeks. Our reports can be often used for school or to apply to additional services. Adding on, our coordinator speaks Spanish which can often aid families that don’t speak English and helps remove that barrier to care. Furthermore, this will help families in the future by investigating risk factors in the development of ASD which can help inform clinical care for diverse populations.

Autistic individuals experience depression differently, and at a higher rate, than typically-developing individuals, yet there is no measure that specifically measures depression in autistic populations. As such, we have created a new measure to look at depressive symptomatology as seen in autistic populations. Our study will provide us with a more complete understanding of autistic youth’s mental health, while also providing professionals with a more accurate understanding of how to tailor treatments for depressive symptoms in autistic individuals.

What are the goals of the study?

In our study, we are investigating the overlapping symptoms between depression and autism. The goal of this project is to learn more about depressive symptoms that autistic adolescents may show. We are also hoping to gain a better understanding of whether parents attribute such symptoms to their child’s primary diagnosis of ASD, or to depression, or to something else such as puberty or stress.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Adolescents will be asked to complete a questionnaire about their feelings over the last two weeks. This will take approximately 30 minutes. Parents will also fill out a questionnaire about their child’s feelings, behaviours, and emotions over the two weeks. Then, parents will be asked to complete another questionnaire about their child’s behaviours and emotions over the past 6 months. Together, this should take approximately an hour and a half and will be completed over Zoom. Parents will receive a $20 Amazon gift card and adolescents will receive a $10 Amazon gift card for participating.

How will this help families?

Co-occurring conditions such as depression in autistic individuals can increase stress on both the individual and their family. Our study will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the rate of depression in autism, how depression affects autistic individuals and their families, and how to care for families that are experiencing depression in autism. As such, we can begin to lessen the stress and other impacts that depression can have on autism, and improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families.