This Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K23) will enable the candidate to independently conduct research on the development of emotion regulation in autism that integrates clinical and brain findings. The candidate is a licensed child clinical psychologist, specialized in autism, who also has prior genetics training. Her short-term goals are to pursue training in the cognitive and affective neuroscience mechanisms underlying the development of emotion regulation in childhood and adolescence, the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and methods for eliciting emotion and measuring emotional reactivity. Training will be accomplished via (a) meetings and guided readings with mentors Nancy Minshew, M.D., Kevin Pelphrey, Ph.D., and Ronald Dahl, M.D., and an expert team of internal and external consultants;(b) formal coursework;(c) attendance at local and national conferences, journal clubs, and research meetings, and (d) supervised hands-on experiences in the collection and analysis of data using fMRI methodologies and research on emotion regulation. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon University will be the primary sites of this training, offering a combination of excellence in neuroscience and psychiatric research. A key component of the training is participation in all aspects of the proposed study, which utilizes functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to explore the cognitive control of emotion in ASD. This particular component of emotion regulation was chosen as the focus based on the applicant's clinical impressions that perseveration often leads to disruptive emotional meltdowns in ASD, and because research in other populations suggests that attentional biases related to emotion regulation may be highly amenable to treatment. Within the infrastructure of the Pittsburgh NIH Autism Center of Excellence (PI Minshew), the proposed research will include 120 12 to 18 year old children, with and without high-functioning autism/Asperger's. Participants will view fear-inducing and neutral film clips while in the scanner. Multiple methods will be used to capture emotional reactivity;most notably, participants will continuously rate their emotional status throughout their time in the scanner. The study aims to: characterize the role of perseveration in emotional responses to negative stimuli in autism;investigate the functioning of the amygdala and pre- frontal cortex, and their interactions, during emotional responses;and gather preliminary data on the impact of age and comorbid mood, anxiety, and inattention symptoms on individual differences in emotional responding in autism. Insights into emotion regulation gained from this study, and the skills that the applicant will attain through the related training, will place the applicant in a strong position to conduct research on emotion regulation in autism that will specify mechanisms of change to inform treatment development and explain varying response to treatment.

Public Health Relevance

Poor emotion regulation in autism often leads to """"""""meltdowns"""""""" and worsening of social functioning. This research will identify specific components of emotion regulation that are problematic in autism, and the underlying brain mechanisms related to these difficulties. This information can then be used to develop novel treatments to improve emotional and social functioning in autism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Kau, Alice S
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Mazefsky, Carla A; Day, Taylor N; Siegel, Matthew et al. (2016) Development of the Emotion Dysregulation Inventory: A PROMIS®ing Method for Creating Sensitive and Unbiased Questionnaires for Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord :
Mazefsky, Carla A (2015) Emotion Regulation and Emotional Distress in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Foundations and Considerations for Future Research. J Autism Dev Disord 45:3405-8
Siegel, Matthew; Smith, Kahsi A; Mazefsky, Carla et al. (2015) The autism inpatient collection: methods and preliminary sample description. Mol Autism 6:61
Eack, Shaun M; Mazefsky, Carla A; Minshew, Nancy J (2015) Misinterpretation of facial expressions of emotion in verbal adults with autism spectrum disorder. Autism 19:308-15
McGuire, Kelly; Erickson, Craig; Gabriels, Robin L et al. (2015) Psychiatric Hospitalization of Children With Autism or Intellectual Disability: Consensus Statements on Best Practices. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 54:969-71
Mazefsky, Carla A; White, Susan W (2014) Emotion regulation: concepts & practice in autism spectrum disorder. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 23:15-24
White, Susan W; Mazefsky, Carla A; Dichter, Gabriel S et al. (2014) Social-cognitive, physiological, and neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation impairments: understanding anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. Int J Dev Neurosci 39:22-36
Mazefsky, Carla A; Schreiber, Dana R; Olino, Thomas M et al. (2014) The association between emotional and behavioral problems and gastrointestinal symptoms among children with high-functioning autism. Autism 18:493-501
Holm, Margo B; Baird, Joanne M; Kim, Young Joo et al. (2014) Therapeutic horseback riding outcomes of parent-identified goals for children with autism spectrum disorder: an ABA' multiple case design examining dosing and generalization to the home and community. J Autism Dev Disord 44:937-47
Damiano, Cara R; Mazefsky, Carla A; White, Susan W et al. (2014) Future directions for research in autism spectrum disorders. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 43:828-43

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