This Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Award (K23) will provide specialized training in the skills necessary to conduct research on the neurobiologic bases of language processing in autism. The candidate's long term objectives are: 1) To engage in research that will elucidate the neurobiologic and neurodeveiopmental mechanisms underlying language processing problems in developmental disabilities particularly autism; 2) To develop an innovative model of language processing in autism based on neurophysiological and behavioral data; and, 3) To develop and evaluate therapeutic intervention for individuals with autism based on the model of language processing.
The specific aims are: 1) To investigate the comprehension of complex linguistic concepts by high-functioning individuals with autism; 2) To characterize the functional and anatomical brain systems underlying processing of complex linguistic concepts in high-functioning individuals with autism; and, 3) To characterize the functional and anatomical brain systems underlying processing of mentalizing in this population. The candidate's first proposed studies will examine the comprehension of ironic and metaphoric language and theory of mind in 30 older adolescents and adults with high-functioning autism as compared to 30 matched typical controls. The data from the behavioral studies will be integrated with data from planned fMRI studies conducted under the direction of the mentor. The hope is that clearer understanding of the underlying neural mechanisms will guide the development of more efficient and effective therapeutic intervention, affecting positive change in the linguistic processing and adaptive functioning of individuals with autism. The candidate holds a doctorate in speech-language pathology and has extensive clinical experience with individuals with autism and two years of post-doctoral research training. Dr. Marcel Just, Carnegie Mellon University, a pioneer in the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging for the investigation of cognitive processing, and Dr. Nancy Minshew, University of Pittsburgh, Director of an NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism and a nationally and internationally recognized expert in autism, will serve as mentors. Training will include coursework and directed readings in language in autism, right hemispheric language functions, neuroimaging, and modeling of cognitive processes with rotations at neuroimaging laboratories at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, University of California, Los Angeles, and Boston University. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Communication Disorders Review Committee (CDRC)
Program Officer
Sklare, Dan
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Duquesne University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Allied Health Profes
United States
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Bodner, Kimberly E; Engelhardt, Christopher R; Minshew, Nancy J et al. (2015) Making Inferences: Comprehension of Physical Causality, Intentionality, and Emotions in Discourse by High-Functioning Older Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 45:2721-33
Williams, Diane L; Mazefsky, Carla A; Walker, Jon D et al. (2014) Associations between conceptual reasoning, problem solving, and adaptive ability in high-functioning autism. J Autism Dev Disord 44:2908-20
Bodner, Kimberly E; Williams, Diane L; Engelhardt, Christopher R et al. (2014) A Comparison of Measures for Assessing the Level and Nature of Intelligence in Verbal Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Res Autism Spectr Disord 8:1434-1442
Williams, Diane L; Goldstein, Gerald; Minshew, Nancy J (2013) The modality shift experiment in adults and children with high functioning autism. J Autism Dev Disord 43:794-806
Williams, Diane L; Cherkassky, Vladimir L; Mason, Robert A et al. (2013) Brain function differences in language processing in children and adults with autism. Autism Res 6:288-302
Carter, Elizabeth J; Williams, Diane L; Minshew, Nancy J et al. (2012) Is he being bad? Social and language brain networks during social judgment in children with autism. PLoS One 7:e47241
Schipul, Sarah E; Williams, Diane L; Keller, Timothy A et al. (2012) Distinctive neural processes during learning in autism. Cereb Cortex 22:937-50
Casanova, Manuel F; El-Baz, Ayman; Elnakib, Ahmed et al. (2011) Quantitative analysis of the shape of the corpus callosum in patients with autism and comparison individuals. Autism 15:223-38
Conturo, Thomas E; Williams, Diane L; Smith, Charles D et al. (2008) Neuronal fiber pathway abnormalities in autism: an initial MRI diffusion tensor tracking study of hippocampo-fusiform and amygdalo-fusiform pathways. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 14:933-46
Williams, Diane L; Goldstein, Gerald; Kojkowski, Nicole et al. (2008) Do individuals with high functioning autism have the IQ profile associated with nonverbal learning disability? Res Autism Spectr Disord 2:353-361

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