This proposed Mentored Research Scientist CDA (K01) seeks support to foster an independent research career bridging the study of brain development in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to that of early intervention. The developing brain is highly malleable, and interventions which capitalize on this quality hold great promise. However, response to intervention is variable and dependent on individual differences, an issue compounded by ASD heterogeneity. Linking traditionally separate lines of intervention and neurobehavioral research has the potential to aid efforts to optimally individualize intervention. In the short term, the candidate's career goals include identifying early brain-behavior markers of behavioral outcomes and treatment response. In the longer term, the candidate plans to leverage this information to develop targeted early interventions. The candidate is trained in special education, behavior analysis, and developmental neuroscience. To achieve the goal of developing neurobehaviorally informed interventions, the candidate will engage in new and comprehensive training in intervention science with a focus on early intervention for autism, new training in structural brain imaging analysis, and additional statistical and methodological training. Activities supporting these content areas include hands-on training, coursework, journal clubs and directed readings, specialty conference and institute participation, and professional development seminars, with training culminating in the preparation of an R01 grant. The candidate will also investigate brain imaging predictors of: 1) joint attention in toddlers with ASD and 2) response to intervention for joint attention. In the fist study, the candidate will examine concurrent and predictive imaging markers of joint attention in an existing longitudinal sample of toddlers with ASD. In the second study, the candidate will collect pre-treatment imaging data on ~45 toddlers with ASD enrolled in a funded RCT for joint attention intervention to indentify neural mediators of dimensional outcomes, and conduct an exploratory analysis of differences between high- and low-responders. The University of North Carolina is an active center of autism research. Primary mentor Dr. Joseph Piven is a leading expert in the neurobiology of ASD and has extensive experience mentoring junior scientists. He is Director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) and PI of the ACE Network Infant Brain Imaging Study. Co-mentor Dr. Samuel Odom is an accomplished expert in early intervention for ASD. He is Director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and PI of many early intervention studies. UNC is home to world-class imaging facilities and experts, including co-mentor Dr. Martin Styner, an expert in structural image analysis and Co-Director of both the Neuro Image Research and Analysis Lab and the CIDD's Developmental Neuroimaging Core. Together, this mentor team is superbly qualified to provide the candidate with training, guidance, and oversight in development activities bridging brain, behavior, and intervention.
It is critically important that early interventions for children with developmental disabilities are optimized to individual needs in order to capitalize on a period of significant neurobehavioral plasticity. This project aims to identify patterns of brain development associated with emerging joint attention and related social communication behavior in young children with autism spectrum disorder and to provide an initial study of how these patterns predict response to targeted early intervention.
|Wolff, Jason J; Botteron, Kelly N; Dager, Stephen R et al. (2014) Longitudinal patterns of repetitive behavior in toddlers with autism. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 55:945-53|