Division of Developmental Medicine
The Infant Sibling Project
Participants: Babies age 12 months or younger who have an older sibling with an autism diagnosis, a language delay, or no known developmental issues.
The goal of this project is to identify risk markers for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that may be present during the first few months of life, before a diagnosis of ASD is currently possible. If we can move diagnosis back to the first year of life, then early intervention, which is known to have a significant positive impact on children with these disorders, can begin much earlier than is currently possible. Because we are interested in developmental changes in both brain and behavior, this study is longitudinal and involves multiple visits to the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience up until age two, and a follow up visit at age three. We also ask that families maintain a home diary to help us track their baby's development. For more information, please contact Vanessa Loukas via e-mail or at 617-455-7238.
Imitative Behaviors in Children with ASD (and their unaffected siblings)
Participants: Children ages 3.5-6 years, with or without an ASD diagnosis, who have siblings with or without an ASD diagnosis.
Previous research has shown that children with autism show differences in how they imitate other people's actions. In one study, typically developing children were found to imitate only those actions that experimenters performed intentionally, whereas children with ASD imitated both intentional and accidental actions. This suggests that children with ASD may have difficulty understanding the intentions of others, a skill that is important for successfully navigating the social world. By recording brain and eye activity while children perform tasks related to imitation and theory of mind--the ability to understand what another person is thinking--we aim to gain insight into how children with ASD attend to and perceive other's actions, and how this may be different from both typically developing children and the unaffected siblings of children with ASD. By learning more about the neural networks associated with these behaviors we hope to better understand how children navigae their social world and to improve the design of learning environments and interventions for children with ASD. For more information, please contact Laura Edwards.