Our Research Studies

Brain Development in Autism: Infant Sibling Study

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This study of very early brain development in autism has the potential to provide important clues relevant to early detection of autism and to discover the early changes in the brains of young children with autism.

Past family studies have found that siblings of a person with autism are at a higher risk for having an autism spectrum disorder than members of the general population. Most recently, results from MRI studies of brain development in 2-year-olds showed that brain enlargement is already present at a young age in children with autism. The data collected suggest that brain overgrowth may begin as early as 12 months of age, if not earlier. This current project aims to identify very early brain features that may be characteristic of infants at risk for autism.

We are currently enrolling newborn to 12-month-old children who have at least one sibling who has been diagnosed with autism. Additionally, we are enrolling infant siblings up to 12 months of age of typically developing children.

Participants will receive developmental and behavioral assessments, an MRI scan of the brain, and referrals for local services. Participants will be reimbursed for travel and related expenses. Assessments and MRI scans associated with the project are provided at no cost to the family.


Autism, Genes, Brain & Behavior

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Our past research has discovered a genetic variant that appears to have an impact on social functioning in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). We will test the theory that children with this variant have poorer social skills than children without it.

Children between the ages of 6 and 18 may take part. We need individuals diagnosed with ASDs as well as typically developing people for comparison purposes.

Families will need to make several visits to the Center for Autism Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Visits will be scheduled to be convenient for participating families. Depending on their scheduling needs, we expect most participants will complete the study in 2 to 4 visits.

Children participating in the research study will receive social, behavioral, intelligence (IQ) and other developmental testing. Children will also have brain imaging and will be asked to give small samples of blood or cheek cells. Parents will be asked to answer questionnaires over the phone, in person, and on paper.

Individuals who take part will receive a comprehensive evaluation and report.

There is no cost to participate. Families will be paid for their time and reimbursed for their travel costs.


Reward Circuitry, Autism and Games that Teach Social Perceptual Skills

This study is designed to gain a better understanding of differences in the way children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and typically developing children recognize faces and facial expressions and use feedback from others. In addition, the study will use this information to develop and test a new computer game intervention for children with ASD to improve these skills.

Children between the ages of 8 and 13 may take part. We are seeking typically developing children and individuals diagnosed with ASD. We are also seeking typically developing adults to pretest the images and tasks that will be used.

Participants will participate in brain imaging, social, behavioral, intelligence (IQ) and other developmental testing. Parents will be asked to answer questionnaires over the phone, in person, and on paper.

Children who take part will receive a comprehensive evaluation and report.

There is no cost to participate. Families/participants will be paid for their time and reimbursed for their travel costs.


Autism Biomarkers and Genetics

Currently there is no medical test or quantitative measure that can be used to make a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We want to determine whether a combination of brain imaging techniques, eye tracking measurements, and genetic markers can be used to make a definitive diagnosis of ASD, independent of the typical behavioral scales used in current practice.

Children between the ages of 12 and 18 may take part. We need individuals diagnosed with ASD as well as typically developing people for comparison purposes.

Families will need to make at least two visits to the Center for Autism Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. We expect most participants will complete the study in two to four visits. Visits will take place over a 2-3 month period.

Children participating in the research study will receive social, behavioral, intelligence (IQ), and other developmental testing. Children will also have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and will be asked to give small samples of blood or cheek cells. Parents will be asked to answer questionnaires over the phone, in person, and on paper.

Individuals who take part will receive a comprehensive evaluation and report.

Families who take part will be paid for their time and reimbursed for their travel costs.