Mid-Atlantic Consortium Newsletter Summer 2013

“High functioning Autism” and Brain Development

This research study, conducted at the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) in Baltimore and directed by Stewart Mostofsky, M.D., focuses on the neurological basis of autism and autism spectrum disorders. 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.

The investigators predict that deficits in the ability to learn through imitation could help to explain the abnormal development of social, communication and motor skills characteristic of children with autism. Past research has indicated that abnormalities within specific brain circuits important for certain types of learning sometimes occur with autism, and this study is conducting a careful and detailed assessment of motor skill learning in affected children that could contribute insights about many impairments commonly seen in autism. To accomplish this, the detailed measures of abilities will be linked to brain structure and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Participants in this research project include two groups of children eight to 12 years of age, one group comprising those with high functioning autism and one group without a developmental disability. By comparing these two groups, researchers hope to better understand how autism develops, identify critical links between brain and behavioral development, and develop more effective treatments and methods to prevent autism in children at risk.

For more information, contact Rebecca Buhlman by phone at 443-923-9258 or by email at buhlman@kennedykrieger.org.