New directions for NeuroDevNet in autism research

April 2, 2015

As celebrations of World Autism Awareness Day take place around the world, NeuroDevNet is on the verge of launching an array of new research initiatives focusing on ASD.

"What's new in cycle II includes and builds on the foundation of work over the first five years, but takes us in new directions," says Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, co-lead of the Network's Autism Research Group.

"In cycle I, our focus was on gene discovery, and generating genomic information from our clinical cohorts - the infant sibling cohort, and the national longitudinal study of newly diagnosed kids through the Pathways project," adds Zwaigenbaum. "Cycle II will focus on genomic and exome data to examine if genomics can predict developmental patterns or mental health challenges in infants at risk of developing ASD (who have a sibling diagnosed with autism), and look at how at-risk children respond to treatment."

Interventions to be studied include a version of the Social ABC's program - a technique for encouraging verbal interaction and social engagement piloted with parents of children with ASD - customized for early childhood educators, and an app designed to teach children with ASD experiencing anxiety to monitor, and eventually modulate physical signs and symptoms of anxiousness. Other studies will involve youth with autism in studying mindfulness for stress reduction, and articulation of the lived experience of autism through multiple media.