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 is a research study to learn more about how children learn to understand language, and the role that caregivers play in this process. By learning more about these processes, we may be able to contribute to a better understanding of language development and impairment and the design of more effective intervention programs and therapies to support language learning. This study will be conducted by Dr. Sudha Arunachalam of the Communicative Sciences and Disorders department at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, and Dr. Rhiannon Luyster of the Communicative Sciences and Disorders department at Emerson College.

What are the goals of the study?

Learn more about how children learn to understand language, and the role that caregivers play in this process.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you give permission for your child to participate in this study, your child will be asked to play some games with us in the lab at 665 Broadway in Manhattan, and have a play session at home over web camera on your computer or tablet via Zoom videoconferencing software. You will be with your child the entire time. The in-person study is schedule for 1.5 hours, and the Zoom conferencing part of the study will take approximately 30-45 minutes of you and your child’s time.

The study also involves online surveys that can be completed by you from any location on a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. These surveys will focus on your child’s demographics, daily activities, and language use, and will take up to 30 minutes to complete.

How will this help families?

We may be able to contribute to a better understanding of language development and impairment and the design of more effective intervention programs and therapies to support language learning.

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.

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.

Diagnosing ASD is challenging, and in most cases, a variety of subtle signs, unique to each child, build up starting in the 1st year (e.g., social, language, motor, attention skills). Motor skills, an understudied area, is also one of the earliest skills affected; although we are aware that early intervention is associated with the best outcomes, the median age of diagnosis remains 4 years. If we could detect signs of ASD earlier and more reliably, we could identify children who would benefit from behavioral therapies faster.

What are the goals of the study?

Our goal is to validate wearable-sensor methodology (wrist-worn accelerometers) for quantifying two endophenotypes: hyperactivity (HYP, an early marker of liability to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is strongly comorbid with autism) and impairment in motor coordination (MOT). We expect to gain a comprehensive understanding of motor endophenotypes in infants and children as a launching point for future screening and early intervention studies in children at a high-risk for autism.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your child will visit Washington University up to two times when they are 18-39 months of age. Prior to visiting, parents will complete online questionnaires about family history and your child’s development. Families are compensated for their time. In-person activities include the children participating in tasks testing gross and fine motor skills. Following the in-person motor and social assessments, the child will be given an accelerometry wristband to wear at home for 48 hours, and a parent will need to record notes of their motor activity.

How will this help families?

If we could detect signs of ASD related to motor skills earlier and more reliably, we could identify children who would benefit from behavioral therapies faster. Earlier access to behavioral therapies for children diagnosed with autism can lead to faster improvements and better outcomes for their behavior.

Social communication and language skills are important intervention targets for children with autism, but we lack easy-to-use tools to monitor children’s progress in this developmental area. This study aims to develop a new tool, the Early Communication Indicator for Autism (ECI-A), to monitor children’s progress over time. Participation consists of completing online surveys and in-person developmental and play-based assessments with your child and eligible participants will receive at least $100 for participating ($50 to $150 additional compensation depending on the number of activities completed).

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to adapt an existing tool to monitor the social-communication skills, or the way that children interact with and communicate with others, of children with or at elevated likelihood for autism (ages 12 – 60 months).

What will happen during the visit or online?

If you agree to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete:
• Online surveys related to your child’s development, information about your family, and services your child receives
• University of Kansas or University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill clinic or home visits, based on family preference, for play-based assessments
• Video recordings of in-home play-based assessments with you and your child
Eligible participants will receive $100 for participating. You may be asked to participate in additional research activities, and you will receive between $50 and $150 in additional compensation depending on the number of activities.

How will this help families?

The ultimate goal of this tool is to provide families’ and other caregivers’ access to meaningful and actionable data about their children’s social-communication and language progress over time. Data generated from the ECI-A could be used to make a case for the need for early intervention or be used to determine if an intervention is working as intended.

Through a better understanding of motor learning, we can begin to craft early interventions to fit the needs of our participants. Our study aims to focus on how infants at elevated risk for autism learn motor skills for the purposes of developing early interventions. We accomplish this through non-invasive measures using play based assessments and a motor learning task.

What are the goals of the study?

The current project for the infant robot interaction study aims to better understand how infants at elevated and community risk for autism learn motor skills. We are specifically interested in how infants integrate their vision and movements to learn that their behaviors are controlling our robot. We ultimately want to understand infant motor learning so that we can better tailor early motor interventions.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will come to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for a single hour visit. We will place 4 movement sensors on your child’s arms and legs, and a head mounted eye tracker on their head. With these devices on, we will record a video of your child observing our robot talk and move. At the end of the visit, we will measure your infant’s weight, length, and motor milestones. You will also go home with a short survey that asks you about your child’s everyday behaviors.

How will this help families?

No direct benefits will be given to the participants of our study. However, our goal is to better understand how infants at elevated risk for autism learn motor skills so that we can better develop early interventions for this population. Through early intervention, infants can have the best start to life by working on the needs of the patient.