Brain Imaging Expert Recruited to Study Autism at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Dr. Robert Schultz Investigates the "Social Brain" in Children with Autism

10/1/2007

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An internationally prominent expert in brain function in children and young adults with autism, Robert T. Schultz, Ph.D., is joining the autism research program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on Oct. 1.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20071001/DCM033 )

Most recently the director of the Yale Developmental Neuroimaging Program at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., Dr. Schultz, a neuropsychologist, will hold The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Regional Autism Center Endowed Chair.

"Dr. Schultz has performed groundbreaking research into brain regions involved in social interactions, a central issue for people with autism,"
said Susan E. Levy, M.D., director of the Regional Autism Center at Children's Hospital. "We are excited that he will be adding his expertise to our autism program."

Since joining the Child Study Center at Yale University in 1991, Dr. Schultz has used neuroimaging techniques to investigate autism and other childhood psychological disorders, under an extensive series of grants from the National Institutes of Health and private organizations. His research uses neuroimaging to measure brain structure and brain function, in order to reveal the underlying neural systems causing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Much of Dr. Schultz's work has employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures activity in various brain regions during specific tasks. He has demonstrated that people with ASD have different patterns of brain activity when seeing faces, compared to people without those disorders.

In one notable imaging study, Dr. Schultz showed that the area of the brain that normally shows strong activity when a person recognizes faces was underactive in a child with autism, but lit up when he saw a "Digimon" cartoon character -- the child's preferred interest.

Based on such findings, Dr. Schultz has worked with colleagues to train children with autism to become better at recognizing faces and facial expressions, using customized computer games.

Dr. Schultz will begin a new brain imaging study here, funded by the Autism Centers of Excellence grant program of the National Institute of Mental Health. The new study will recruit and study infants and toddlers at risk of developing autism, as a way of learning the precursors to this
devastating disorder. That study will produce brain images of young children with an older sibling already diagnosed with ASD. Another, large-scale imaging study will involve school-age children and young adults with an ASD.

At the Regional Autism Center at Children's Hospital, Dr. Schultz will
be joining a robust existing program that investigates the early identification and prevalence of autism. He also will be adding his research efforts to those of scientists at the center using other imaging techniques to identify brain regions involved in language and communication impairments. "Dr. Schultz's studies of the social brain will greatly complement our current brain research and will strengthen our ability to
develop treatments for children with autistic spectrum disorders," said Dr.
Levy.

Dr. Schultz has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, with a focus in neuropsychology, from the University of Texas at Austin, and held an endowed chair at Yale University's Child Study Center. He has received a series of grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and from private sources
such as the National Association for Autism Research.

The current president of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), Dr. Schultz is a member of the INSAR executive board and an associate editor of the society's journal, Autism Research. In addition, he serves on the scientific advisory board of Autism Speaks and the Scientific Advisory Board of the United Kingdom's MRC Neuroimaging Consortium on Autism.

About the Regional Autism Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: As a major regional resource, the Regional Autism Center provides comprehensive, coordinated services for children with autistic spectrum disorders. Among its research projects is involvement in a multicenter national project dedicated to early autism diagnosis and intervention. The Center's director, Dr. Susan Levy, has a special research interest in the prevalence of autism and in evaluating complementary and alternative autism treatments.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital
of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's
Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In
addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.

Contact: John Ascenzi
Phone: (267)426-6055
Ascenzi@email.chop.edu