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.

In our international study, we want to find out how Selective Mutism differs from Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are particularly interested in whether the situation has an influence on certain symptoms, for example, whether symptoms occur just as frequently at home in a familiar environment as in an unfamiliar environment. A symptom could be described as a sign by which a particular mental illness can be identified. In general, mental illnesses are associated with various symptoms. Therefore, in order to recognize a mental illness, it is essential to know as many symptoms as possible and to know how often and when they occur. This is particularly important for diagnostics, but also when it comes to providing the affected children with the best possible therapeutic support. We are also interested in surveying parents of neurotypical children without mental illness to determine possible differences. The study involves six questionnaires (approximately 40 minutes) that are completed online.

What are the goals of the study?

To gain knowledge on symptoms of selective mutism and autism and whether those are context-dependent.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Fill out questionnaire

How will this help families?

There are several hints that selective mutism is comorbid in a significant portion of autistic children. This research will enhance our understanding of selective mutism and autism and will help differentiate between the two conditions.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Through this study, the SENSE Lab hopes to learn more about the unique and challenging process of puberty in females with ASD and provide information to families and caretakers in order to make the transition from childhood to adulthood easier. This study aims to understand and track puberty in females with and without ASD so clinicians are able to provide meaningful approaches and interventions in the future during this critical time period.

What are the goals of the study?

The mission of the SENSE (Social Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology) Lab is to better understand the social and emotional functioning of youth autism and to translate findings into meaningful approaches and interventions. Significant physical, psychological, hormonal and social changes occur during pubertal development. Adolescence may be uniquely challenging for girls especially those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The goal of our study of girls with autism or typical development is to promote, understand, build, enrich, respect, and track youth.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Participants will come to Vanderbilt University Medical Center once a year for four years. Each visit includes a physical exam, blood draw, brief psychological exam, brief social interaction, and EEG. Participants will be expected to take saliva samples at home prior to study visits and complete menstrual tracking surveys.

How will this help families?

This study will help provide vital information regarding puberty in females with ASD and help families further understand the unique timing and tempo of puberty in autistic females. In addition to study compensation, families will receive annual research letters of standardized measure results and an annual symposia on topics related to pubertal development and ASD will be provided for families. We aim to be available to families for questions and concerns relevant to the focus of the study; namely, adolescence, puberty, and mental health. If developmental needs arise, our multidisciplinary team will do our best to provide support.