Mapping brain function in children with autism spectrum disorder with diffuse optical tomography

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 study is being conducted by Dr. Lee Mason and Alexis Bolds of Cook Children’s Health Care System and Texas Christian University’s Burnett School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas. Our research is designed to assess your child’s language development over the course of two years. Every six months we will ask you and your child to take part in a telehealth-based functional language assessment that will last approximately one hour. At the completion of this project, we will compare the different language profiles of all participants.

What are the goals of the study?

We are asking you to take part in this research because your child’s language skills are still developing, and we are trying to learn more about how functional language develops over time. The purpose of this research is to determine whether we can accurately conduct language assessments via telehealth, and to better understand the differences in language development between children with and without autism spectrum disorder.

What will happen during the visit or online?

A language assessment called a “verbal operant experimental (VOX) analysis” will be conducted every six months as part of this research. The VOX is a functional analysis of language that has been carefully designed to assess four language domains: conversing, labeling, echoing, and requesting. Across each of these conditions, we will assess your child’s ability to say the same words. Caregivers will also be asked to complete a brief demographic survey at the time of each assessment to identify potential factors that may be related to language development. We expect each assessment to take approximately 45-60 minutes of your time.

How will this help families?

After each VOX analysis, you will receive an assessment report that describes strengths and weaknesses of your functional language skills. The report provides recommendations for helping to remediate any deficit areas identified by the assessment.

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.

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.

This study is important as it aims to better understand the impact of anxiety for adolescent ASD females, who are currently understudied and often experience diagnostic delays. Additionally, it examines the intersectionality of ASD, sex and gender and its impact on anxiety during this pivotal period of development.

What are the goals of the study?

This study aims to better understand the interplay between sex, gender and ASD. Specifically, it will examine the experiences of ASD females with a focus on the presence and impact of anxiety in adolescence. ASD females are at elevated risk, especially during the transitional period of adolescence where ASD youth report increased rates of bullying and rejection, potentially contributing to co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicidality.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will complete diagnostic assessments, self-report tools, social and non-social stress tests and optional eye tracking paradigms. During the assessment, heart rate data will be collected with Actiheart Heart Rate and Activity Data Loggers. Caregivers will complete measures of ASD symptomatology, gender-role development, pubertal status and anxiety.

How will this help families?

This study aims to help families affected by autism, particularly female adolescents, with a goal to better characterize bio-behavioral markers of anxiety in ASD females. Adolescents with ASD have been reported to experience higher levels of bullying and rejection from peers which can lead to increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality. ASD females are particularly vulnerable to anxiety and therefore increased research is needed to better understand their experiences and the role of biological sex, gender and symptomatology in predicting anxiety.

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.

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)

We still know too little about the basis of social cognition (emotions, thinking about others, interacting with others) in the brain to explain variations in people’s behavior (e.g., among allistic and autistic people). This study aims at helping us understand mechanisms in the brain better and connect them to relevant social behavior in people. If you are interested you can chose which parts of the study you want to participate in (from computer tasks, to questionnaires to brain scans).

What are the goals of the study?

This study aims at investigating the basis of human social cognition in behavior, brain function, and structure. One population with difficulties navigating our social world is autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studying atypical processing in populations such as those with ASD, is thus of paramount value to social cognition. By studying both healthy and impaired social functioning, this study aims at advancing a mechanistic understanding of social cognition in behavior, brain function and brain structure.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be invited to participate in one or more of our ongoing experiments in this study to study social cognition in brain and behavior. The study consists of a research brain scan (MRI) and simple behavioral tasks and questionnaires assessing social behavior. The study will consist of multiple sessions each not exceeding 3 hours, with the time between sessions varying from one day (minimum) to a maximum of one year.

How will this help families?

The research may help in our understanding of how the brain functions to generate and process social behavior, and will provide insights on how mental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, may affect social cognition This information may expand our knowledge of these socio-cognitive processes and may have future implications for diagnosis and treatment of future patients. Participants (and families) do not receive any direct benefits from the study (other than compensation for research participation).

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?

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.

This study is important because it can provide new understandings of social mechanisms in autistic individuals, a largely under-investigated area of autism. It might also have long term impact and clinical utility as results might inform better knowledge about social space in autism, which may lead to better behavioral interventions and therapies to assist autistic individuals in their qualities of life. At the same time, participation in this study culminates in participants receiving testing reports of evaluations that generally can cost upwards of $1000-2000 for free.

What are the goals of the study?

The overall goal of the study is to understand differences in neural computations of social interactions in autism using dynamic tasks and neuroimaging methods.

What will happen during the visit or online?

It involves 2-3 in person visits for EEG, MRI tasks, and clinical assessments, as well as remote surveys and clinical assessments. You will be compensated $20 an hour for your time, which should be about $150 in total.

How will this help families?

Help to better understand the social brain and phenotype of autism in order to provide new insights into treatment targets.