Last updated on May 2019

Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Brief description of study

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disorders that affect communication, social interaction, and behavior. Relatively little is known about the relationship between genetics and behavior among these individuals and their close relatives. Researchers are interested in using interviews and rating scales to better understand these issues, as well as collecting brain scan data and genetic samples for testing and comparison.
  • By comparing test results and genetic samples from healthy volunteers, people with ASD, and parents (or caregivers or legal guardians) of the first two groups, researchers hope to better understand the neuroscience of ASD.
  • To learn more about the brain in healthy people and in people with autism spectrum disorders.
  • To study genes that might be involved in autism spectrum disorders by collecting DNA samples from participants.

The following groups of participants will be eligible for the study:

  • Individuals between 5 and 89 years of age who have autism spectrum disorders.
  • Healthy volunteers between 5 and 89 years of age.
  • Cognitively impaired children between 5 and 17 years of age.
  • Parents/caregivers/legal guardians of individuals in the above three groups.
  • Participants will visit the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center for research tests, which will be administered over multiple visits. Researchers will determine the specific tests to be administered based on the medical history of the study participant.
  • Researchers will study the brain through interviews, tests of thinking and memory (neuropsychological tests), brain imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and magnetoencephalography (MEG).
  • The study will also collect blood or saliva to obtain a DNA sample.

Detailed Study Description

Objective: The primary objective of the proposed studies is to utilize neuroimaging (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging [fMRI], structural MRI [sMRI], Magnetoencephalography [MEG]) and neuropsychological tools (eye-tracking, cognitive experiments, clinical neuropsychological measures, questionnaires, etc.) to identify cognitive idiosyncrasies (e.g., social-cognitive deficits, visual perceptual assets, and savant skills) characteristic of individuals on the autism spectrum and their neural underpinnings across childhood and adulthood.

Study Population: Children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), controls (i.e., typically developing children, adolescents, and adults and those with mild to moderate mental retardation), as well as caregivers/legal guardians/parents of these individuals.

Design: Descriptive/Characterization/Observational studies using primarily neuropsychological and neuroimaging methodologies.

Outcome Measures: Behavioral (reaction time, accuracy, eye movements, etc.) and neuroimaging (brain morphometry, BOLD, electrophysiology, etc.).

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT01031407

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