This proposal outlines research and training to occur with funding from a Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00). The training objective during the first two years of the award is to foster training in neuroimaging and human behavioral assessment to prepare me for a translational research career in academia, and accelerate my progress towards independence. During the K99 phase, I will complete research projects with the following goals: (1) determine the utility of olfactory function measures for distinguishing children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) from non-exposed typically developing control children (CON) and children with idiopathic attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);and (2) understand the neural dissimilarities in these groups of children that contribute to their behavior. I will undertake an intensive training regimen to obtain the necessary expertise to conduct neuroimaging research. I will also begin studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate differences in central olfactory processing systems in PAE, ADHD and CON children. I will promote my career development by attending relevant seminars and scientific conferences, publishing my research findings, and interviewing for independent faculty positions. The proposed mentors, Drs. Edward Riley, Claire Murphy, and Jay Giedd are experts in the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, chemical senses, and pediatric neurodevelopment fields, respectively. The collaborative research and training environments at the Center for Behavioral Teratology, San Diego State University, and University of California, San Diego will provide me with the necessary resources to complete the aims outlined in this proposal. In the 3-year R00 phase of the award, I will establish myself in my new role as an independent researcher and continue my research on olfactory functioning in children with PAE and ADHD with the following goals: (1) examine the relationship between attention deficits, olfactory function, neural activation patterns and stimulant treatment responses;and (2) determine the value of olfactory function measures in predicting chronic responses to psychostimulant treatments in children with PAE using a mouse-model. The work described in this proposal is in line with NIAAA's mission for "improving diagnosis of FASD, increasing the understanding of the effects of alcohol on the unborn child, and developing effective interventions to mitigate the health effects on those prenatally exposed to alcohol."
The proposed project will help researchers and clinicians better understand the behavioral and neural consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure. The information gained from this research can be used to aid in clinical diagnosis, the development of novel treatments and refinement of current pharmacologic interventions for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.