Imaging-based real-time feedback to enhance therapeutic intervention in ASD
Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowship
Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a new, state-of-the-art neuroimaging method. It is safe, portable, easy to use, patient-friendly and cost-effective. fNIRS allows measurement of brain function in a naturalistic environment (e.g., sitting and conversing) and can be used to provide real-time monitoring of dynamic brain activity. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the most compelling among all brain-based disorders with respect to impact on the life of the affected individual, and the wide variation in symptoms and severity. Since there is currently no cure for autism, a focus on the development of new, more effective therapeutic interventions could significantly improve the quality of life for those with ASD. This project will develop a highly novel fNIRS-based paradigm to enhance the effectiveness of behavioral interventions focused on social cognition. Specifically, the investigators will utilize fNIRS to enable clinicians to quantitatively determine brain activation of their patients in real-time, and provide feedback to their patients based on neural circuitry as well as behavioral response. This project will accelerate the translation of fNIRS functional imaging to enhance the treatment of ASD. The initial stage of the research training will provide fundamental knowledge of ASD including diagnostic procedures, evidence-based clinical interventions and prevailing theories of contributory neurobiology. The fellowship experience will also provide training in fNIRS signal processing and analysis within a bioengineering context. The collective training has the potential to lead to translational biomedical imaging, and to develop more effective methods and devices to treat ASD.