2010 Grantees

2010 Fellowship Awardees

The following projects were selected for funding (student/mentor):

Sarita Austin and Dr. Rhea Paul: Yale Child Study Center

Enhancing Understanding and Use of Conversational Rules in School-Aged Speakers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Karen Burner and Dr. Sara Jane WebbUniversity of Washington 

Observational and Electrophysiological Assessments of Temperament in Infants at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Rhonda Charles and Dr. Joseph Buxbaum: Mount Sinai School of Medicine 

A Preclinical Model for Determining the Role of AVPR1A in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders defined behaviorally and characterized by deficits in reciprocal social interaction, impared communications and language skills. These behaviors are sometimes accompanied by anxiety or aggression. Numerous studies show that the neuropeptite arginine vasopressin (ABP) and its receptors play an important role in regulating such behaviors. In addition, multiple genetic studies have demonstrated a significant association between arginine vasopressin receptor (AVPR1A) and ASDs.

In our study, we intend to generate the fully humanized AVPR1A animals and compare the expression pattern of the human receptor and mouse receptor in humanized animals and wild type animals, respectively. We will also attempt to document any behavioral differences between the animal groups and correlate these differences to divergent expression patterns.

Sarah Hannigen and Dr. Mark Strauss: University of Pittsburgh

Defining High and Low Risk Expression of Emotion in Infants at Risk for Autism

Since Leo Kanner’s earliest description of autism, “disturbances of affect contact” have been considered characteristic of the disorder. While most work as documented the deficits in emotional expression and perception in children and adults with autism, the advent of the infant sibling method allows researchers to investigate these characteristics as possible earlymarkers of thje disorder. Recent findings have suggested that both cognitive processing of facial expressions and the expression of emotion may distinguish those infants at high and low risk for autism, however research published to date remains equivocal. Thus, using classic infant perception and infant-adult interaction paradigms the current study seeks to more carefully define high and low risk infant’s perception of facial expressions, high and low risk infant’s expression of emotion, and the relation between emotion perception and expression in infants at low and high risk for autism.

Matthew Maenner and Dr. Maureen Durkin: University of Wisconsin, Madison 

Phenotypic Heterogeneity and Early Identification of ASD in the United States

Autism is thought to have multiple etiologies and a rage of behavioral manifestations, however, current epidemiologic research often fails to consider this diversity and how it may affect the identification of children with autism. This research proposes to examine the variability of autism spectrum disorders across different sociodemographic groups and determine whether certain impairments (such as repetitive movements or lack of eye contact) are related to an earlier age of diagnosis.

Michael Siderov and Dr. Mark Baer: MIT

Investigation of Postnatal Drug Intervention’s Potential in Rescuing the Symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome in Adult Mice

Fragile X syndrome is the leading known cause of autism. Because the underlying causes of the majority of cases of autism are unknown, understanding the biology of Fragile X is important not just for treating those with the disorder, but also for helping better understand the biology of autism in general. We hope to test whether postnatal drug intervention can rescue the symptoms of Fragile X syndrome in mice.

Fragile X is essentially thought of as a disease of excess – excessive protein synthesis causes numerous symptoms, and interventions designed to reduce protein synthesis back to normal levels are being considered as possible therapies. Our study tests whether postnatal intervention can rescue Fragile X symptoms. We also plan to test whether rescue can occur in post-adolescence and whether rescue can outlast the duration of the treatment.