This is an application for a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award. The candidate's prior training as a clinical psychologist and as a neuroimaging postdoctoral fellow has allowed him to develop expertise in clinical knowledge of symptom expression in autism spectrum disorders and the technical aspects of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The candidate proposes a program of training and research with the goal of integrating: i) Applications of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for intervention research, 2) Assessment of restricted and repetitive behaviors and executive function in autism, and 3) Autism treatment outcome research, including treatment study design, potential brain mechanisms of treatment response, and outcome assessment. To establish a career as a productive and independent autism investigator with a specialty in the use of fMRI to evaluate the putative mechanisms of action of autism treatments, the applicant is seeking support to obtain training in the disciplines listed above, The framework of this application is that symptom domains in autism are mediated by neurocognitive processes that may be ameliorated with targeted psychopharmacologic treatments and that may be assessed via fMRI. Building upon the training outlined in this award application, the candidate will use fMRI to investigate neurobiological links between neurocognitive processes mediating symptom expression and domain-specific symptom reductions induced by citalopram in high-functioning adults with autism. This study will extend the applicant's prior fMRI research and will represent an initial step in a program of mentored research with the goal of exploring the neural basis of autism symptom expression and their reduction via targeted treatments. This application is innovative because it would be the first to examine concurrently the neural, symptomatic, and neuropsychological profiles of treatment response in autism.
Brain imaging techniques allow for non-invasive investigations of neurodevelopmental disorders and how treatments may ameliorate symptoms. This study seeks to use measures of brain functioning to help understand how an effective intervention reduces symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The findings of the study may lead to future research aimed at developing better interventions with the ultimate goal of reducing suffering for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders.
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