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Calls to Action

Neural & Behavioral Precursors to Autism 2

La Jolla
State/Province Full: 
United States

The aim of this proposal is to investigate the risk factors associated with the development autism spectrum disorders (ASD), with the ultimate goals of illustrating and describing the neural basis of ASD and aiding in early diagnosis of ASD. Dr. Dobkins and her group are studying infant siblings of individuals with ASD (referred to as "at-risk" infants) longitudinally over 6–36 months. Although only ~8–15% of at-risk infants are predicted to develop ASD, the remaining at-risk infants are nonetheless expected to exhibit sub-clinical differences in neural pathway functioning. Using a variety of techniques (visual psychophysical, behavioral, and EEG), Dr. Dobkins and her colleagues will investigate different neural pathways that have been implicated in ASD. Children will be tested at 6 -18 months on tasks which monitor visual processing of motion, color, form, and facial images. While children are engaged in these tasks, the activation of specific pathways in the brain, as measured by electrical brain activity (i.e. event related potentials or ERP), will be tracked non-invasively. Over the course of this study, several additional standardized behavioral tests will be administered to assess social, communicative, and cognitive skills, including those that are used for diagnosing ASD. Significance: The data from these different assessments will be used to determine which of the measures described above correlate with, and might therefore provide early diagnostic identifiers for, ASD and other social/emotional/communicative outcomes. [BSRC]