Mid-Atlantic Consortium Newsletter Summer 2013

Autism, Attention, Behavior and Brain Function

Research conducted at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C.,  and directed by Chandan Vaidya, Ph.D., and Lauren Kenworthy, Ph.D., is focusing on genetic, behavioral and social factors and questions associated with autism, particularly why some children with autism are affected so much more severely than others. Further studies will relate these factors to brain structure and function, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Scientists and clinicians who are experts in genetics, brain sciences and developmental disabilities at CNMC and Georgetown University are working together on these investigations.

The prevalence of autism has been increasing dramatically in recent years. Although great strides have been made in understanding the social, communication and other impairments that define autism, the neurologic basis of the disorder remains unclear. This program is placing special emphasis on brain areas involved in relatively complex thinking, called executive processing, although many other aspects of mental activity also will be examined.

Participants in this program include children and young adults from six to 21 years of age, both with and without autism. Some projects focus directly on high-functioning individuals with autism; others are interested in the broader population with autism spectrum disorders. By comparing groups with and without autism, the researchers hope to better understand how autism develops, the critical links between brain and behavioral development, and how to use this knowledge to develop more effective treatments and methods to prevent autism in children at risk.

For more information, contact The Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Children’s National by phone at 301-765-5425 or by email at autism@cnmc.org.