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.

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.

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.

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.

Social interaction during early childhood is a critical component of development. This project explores these interactions during play among children with and without autism spectrum disorder to better understand how children learn to engage with their environment and the people around them. The results of this project may lend itself to improving early screening, diagnosis, and intervention processes for young children with autism spectrum disorder and their families.

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this project is to explore the early visual experiences of children during social play with their parents and how these interactions may influence different aspects of their development, such as language and cognition.

What will happen during the visit or online?

You and your child will be asked to play with a set of toys for approximately 5 minutes while wearing head-mounted eye-trackers. Depending on your child’s age, your child will also be asked to complete: the ADOS-2 (a gold-standard autism diagnostic test; 12mo and older), an IQ test (12mo and older), a motor assessment (18mo or younger), and/or two vocabulary tests (30mo or older).

How will this help families?

Families will receive a free summary of their child’s assessment results (autism diagnosis, vocabulary, motor skills, and/or Q) along with an Amazon gift card, family passes to the Children’s Museum of Houston, and a gift-bundle (toys, books, crayons, T-shirt, etc). We hope this project will ultimately assist in improving early screening, diagnosis, and intervention processes for infants and toddlers that may have autism spectrum disorder.

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.

The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) is a multicenter research study led by Yale that also includes Duke University, Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles , and the University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The aim of the consortium is to develop reliable and objective measurements of social function and communication in children on the autism spectrum.

What are the goals of the study?

The aim of the consortium is to develop reliable and objective measurements of social function and communication in children on the autism spectrum.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Caregivers will complete a screening phone call and questionnaires about their child. Children will complete in-person study visits at Boston Children’s Hospital over a 6 month period. Scheduling is flexible including weekends.

How will this help families?

Currently, ASD is diagnosed and treated based on information gathered from clinical assessments and parent questionnaires. ABC-CT will add to this pool of knowledge by developing a more objective battery of tools to measure social function.

Autism is often not diagnosed until after 24 months of age, yet through our IBIS research, we’ve identified early changes in brain development occurring between 6 and 12 months. By further expanding our research in early brain development, we hope to identify methods for earlier identification and more individualized treatment.

What are the goals of the study?

Our goal is to understand early brain development in autism, which we hope will lead to earlier identification and more individualized supports.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Families travel to one of 5 sites for visits at 6, 12 and 24 months. Visits last approximately two days and include un-sedated MRIs during natural sleep along with various developmental assessments. Participants receive around $450 per visit along with reimbursement for travel expenses. This study is being conducted nationally across 5 sites in Seattle, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill (NC), Philadelphia, and St. Louis

How will this help families?

We hope to identify methods for earlier identification of autism and more individualized interventions.

While siblings of individuals with ASD are at greater risk for ASD and other developmental disorders themselves, very little is known about how autism affects the children of these siblings (the “next generation”). This project is aimed at laying the groundwork to better understand how autism affects the next generation. This study will focus on establishing the infrastructure to examine the next generation of families affected by ASD by engaging adult siblings and their spouses/partners in focus groups; this feasibility study will pave the way for a phenotyping study of the next generation to examine the early signs and symptoms among the second-degree nieces and nephews of individuals with ASD.

What are the goals of the study?

To gather input on how having a sibling with ASD affects your family planning decisions and your perspective on participating in research.

What will happen during the visit or online?

If eligible, you will be invited to participate in a 2-hour focus group via Zoom alongside other siblings (and spouses/partners of siblings) of individuals with ASD to provide insight into your experiences, your current feelings surrounding family planning decisions, and your willingness to participate in future research. You will be compensated for your time and input.

How will this help families?

Participation in this study will help to establish a research protocol that can assist other siblings of individuals with ASD. Participation will also assist researchers in knowing what topics need to be addressed through future research and/or clinical projects to help support the needs of unaffected siblings as well as the needs of their affected siblings.

This program supports data collection and sharing that will expand and improve medical research. By generating the most comprehensive Data Collection Program for these conditions, we can increase research and accelerate the development of new drugs, devices, or other therapies. Participating families will also have the ability to connect with other patient organizations, be contacted to participate in emerging clinical trials (if eligible), and manage how their data is used.

What are the goals of the study?

The RARE-X Data Collection Program makes data collection free, accessible and easy for communities, while ensuring the data collected is as useful and shareable as possible for researchers and others working on treatments. Our goal is to enable families to easily collect and access their data and empower them to become data stewards and sharers. This program helps create a robust data set that can be shared to accelerate diagnosis, disorder understanding, and drug and therapy development.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will be asked to create a secure, password-protected account and provide their consent to participate. Participants will then have the chance to answer a set of questions (survey) regarding the patient’s health history, development, and treatment and care. Additional surveys will be added over time and participants will be notified of future surveys relevant to them. Participants will also have the opportunity to upload genetic test results related to the disorder diagnosis.

How will this help families?

Participation in this program may…

  • Contribute to further research leading to the development of treatments
  • Provide patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials
  • Help you learn more about the disorder, leading to better advocacy in medical, education, and social services
  • Inform patients/families about the progression of the disorder and how they may compare with other patients

The information we receive from healthy, typically developing children, teens, and adults could help us learn more information about the characteristics associated with 3q29 syndromes. The information we learn from our control group comparison utilizing MRI scans will help us gain insight into how the brain processes social information to 3q29 syndromes that are associated with increased risk for several developmental disabilities. As a token of our appreciation, participates can receive a monetary compensation of $50 for the MRI scans, $15 for MRI training, a souvenir picture of yours or your child’s brain, and feedback about your child’s performance from the clinical assessments.

What are the goals of the study?

This study is part of a larger medical research study to help us learn more about how the brain functions, especially when processing social information. We will do this by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The information we learn from healthy, typically developing individuals will help us to understand the characteristics associated with 3q29 syndromes, which are rare genetic disorders that are associated with increased risk for developmental disabilities including autism, intellectual disability, learning disabilities, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

What will happen during the visit or online?

The study will take place at the Marcus Autism Center and our imaging center, which is located at Wesley Woods on the Emory Campus. Participants will be asked to receive training on what to expect during an MRI scan, watch videos while resting in the MRI scanner, and receive clinical assessments which involve completing games and activities related to language and thought.

How will this help families?

Our mission is to learn more about 3q29 Deletion Syndrome and 3q29 Duplication Syndrome, and improve the quality of care for individuals with this diagnosis. Because the 3q29 Deletion and 3q29 Duplication are so rare, it is difficult for medical practitioners, families, and individuals to know what to expect. Our goal is to create a resource for families and professionals to address this gap in knowledge.