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Neuroscience of Driving, ASD Reward Circuitry, Orthopaedics Meeting, Diva De Leon-Crutchlow

Published on June 29, 2018 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months 4 weeks ago


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Our latest roundup of research headlines from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is all about connecting the dots — whether it’s between two disciplines that come together in a common research mission, or discovering answers to previously unknown research questions. Read on to learn more about the Neuroscience of Driving Research Program, a collaboration between our Center of Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) and the neuroradiology MEG (magnetoencephalography) Imaging Center at CHOP, along with novel findings that advance our understanding of how the brain processes rewards in individuals with autism spectrum disorder(ASD), and more.

Convergent Science Bridges Neuroscience with Driving Research

Though we’ve come a long way in the field of driving safety research, scientists still know very little about the neural components of driving. This week, Elizabeth Walshe, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at CIRP, announced an exciting new initiative in partnership with the neuroradiology MEG (magnetoencephalography) Imaging Center at CHOP that will bridge applied driving research with basic neuroscience using a dynamic approach called “convergent science.”

Convergent science integrates methods and expertise from different disciplines (in this case, engineering, computer science, cognitive science, and neuroscience) in order to solve complex societal problems (such as the public health problem of teen driver crashes). According to Dr. Walshe, the Neuroscience of Driving Research Program will use portable simulator drives to conduct studies at three different levels of research: the clinical, basic neuroscience, and broader population level.

“The long-term goal of this research program is to develop simulated driving as a probe of complex integrated brain function,” wrote Dr. Walshe in a CIRP post. “This would allow us to use driving (a complex, highly relevant and high-risk task) to investigate typical and atypical neural and cognitive development in adolescents.”

Learn more about the Neuroscience of Driving Research Program in Dr. Walshe’s post, and read about her research into the developing brain and teen driving here.

CAR Analysis Describes Role of Brain’s Reward Circuit in ASD

New findings from scientists at our Center for Autism Research (CAR) are advancing our understanding of how the brain’s “reward circuit” plays a key role in certain hallmarks of ASD, particularly in the social challenges and restricted interests that individuals with ASD often exhibit. In a JAMA Psychiatry paper, a team led by Caitlin Clements, a member of CAR and doctoral student at Penn Psychology, describe their analysis of 13 neuroimaging studies. The analysis reveals that individuals with ASD respond differently to social and non-social rewards than typically developing children. It is the first paper to show, with conclusive imaging evidence, that individuals with ASD find social and nonsocial images less rewarding — paving a pathway to future research that could examine how the brain processes different types of nonsocial rewards, and how reward processing in ASD changes with age.

“By analyzing many studies, we hoped to show how the brain processes social and nonsocial rewards in a way that no single study has been able to do on its own,” said Clements in a CHOP press release. “The results suggest that we broaden our understanding of the social motivation hypothesis to include atypical motivation for both social and nonsocial rewards.”

Learn more about the new paper in a Penn Today Q&A.

CHOP Research Featured at Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America Annual Meeting

Highlights from the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America (POSNA) Annual Meeting, held in Austin, Texas in May, illustrate the pioneering research led by members of our Division of Orthopaedics. “This year, the POSNA meeting showcased CHOP’s huge contribution to the field of pediatric orthopaedics,” said John Flynn, MD, chief of the Division of Orthopaedics. “It also gave us the opportunity to feature the many rising stars who are poised to take the lead in the field in the years ahead.”

Amidst over 800 scientific abstracts submitted for inclusion, the meeting featured CHOP’s research and investigators prominently throughout, with two papers from CHOP selected in the “Best Clinical Paper” section of the conference. In one, Dr. Flynn and his colleagues showed that time spent in the operating room could be reduced by creating a dedicated team and standardizing their approach to posterior spinal fusion for scoliosis. In the other, Apurva Shah, MD, MBA, orthopaedic surgeon at CHOP, described how patients reported using less than 25 percent of prescribed opioid medications for supracondylar fractures — a finding that suggests the drugs may have been overprescribed for that injury.

Get more highlights from the POSNA Annual Meeting in the CHOP press release.

Dr. Diva De León-Crutchlow Named Chief of Endocrinology and Diabetes

Congratulations goes out to Diva De León-Crutchlow, MD, MSCE, director of the Congenital Hyperinsulinism Center at CHOP, who will assume the role of chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes on July 1! A member of the CHOP community for nearly 20 years, Dr. De León-Crutchlow is nationally and internationally recognized for her clinical expertise and research into congenital hyperinsulinism (HI)and monogenic diabetes. Her research program focuses on improving the health of children and adults with HI and developing novel therapies for the rare genetic condition, in which insulin cells in the pancreas secrete too much insulin, causing low blood sugar. As a scientist, Dr. De León-Crutchlow has made significant advances in understanding HI pathophysiology, including the identification of a key biological target in HI treatment, glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1). Her preclinical and clinical work has shown that exendin-(9-39), a compound that inhibits GLP-1 receptor, can prevent low blood sugar in HI.

“Dr. De León-Crutchlow is an outstanding physician-scientist, a committed educator, and a model colleague dedicated to providing exemplary care to patients and families,” said Joseph St. Geme, MD, physician-in-chief at CHOP, in a press release. “I am also extremely grateful for Dr. Levine’s longstanding commitment to exceptional leadership.”

As chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Dr. De Leon will oversee one of the nation’s largest and top-ranked pediatric endocrinology and diabetes centers.

Learn more in the press release.


Recently on Cornerstone, we congratulated three young investigators for their receipt of 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Awards, announced exciting research from a CHOP team heading to Botswana to study antibiotic use in hospitalized children, gave you highlights from last week’s inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow Town Hall, shared new research about eosinophilic esophagitis from our Division of Allergy and Immunology, and commemorated Dr. Stephen P. Hunger’s prestigious George R. Buchanan Lectureship Award.

Catch up on our headlines from our June 15 edition of In the News:

  • CHOP Takes a Stand for Childhood Cancer
  • New Research Shows Honey Helps Protect Against Button Battery Injuries
  • Mitochondrial Medicine Researchers Study Trials From a Patient’s Perspective
  • Project: EVO Leads the Field in Digital Treatments for ASD & ADHD
  • Dr. Stephan Grupp Named 2018 Citizen Diplomat of the Year

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