Faja Laboratory | Ongoing Studies

Executive Attention Skills in Youth (EASY) Study

How do children solve tricky problems and regulate emotion?

Brief Description:
The Faja Lab is examining executive control - how children manage complex or conflicting information while working toward a goal or solving a problem. Many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit difficulties with executive control. This project will examine whether brain responses related to executive control problems are tied to social problem solving and emotional control and will compare performance on executive control tasks between children with and without ADHD.

Eligibility for Study Participation:
7-11 year olds with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Participation Details:
Caregivers will complete 1 screening phone call and questionnaires about their child. Children will complete 2 visits to Boston Children’s Hospital. During one of the visits, children will complete EEG, a non-invasive recording of brain activity.

All families will receive a feedback report about their child’s development, free parking, childcare for siblings, and up to $40 for participating.

Full Description:
Executive function is the ability to manage complex or conflicting information in the service of attaining a goal. It is necessary when conflicting thoughts, feelings, or responses must be resolved or a learned response must be inhibited. Executive functioning skills improve throughout development and encompass a range of interrelated domains, including inhibition, attention regulation, set-shifting and working memory.

Executive control is often reduced in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Impairment can start in childhood and persists throughout adulthood. The ability to manage conflicting information and behavior is an important social skill.

For more information contact easystudy@childrens.harvard.edu

GAMES Project (Gaming for Autism to Mold Executive Skills)

What if playing video games could help children with autism have better executive functioning?

Brief Description:
Here in the Faja lab we are testing new computer games to improve executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

So far, there have only been two published studies using interventions to improve executive functioning skills in children with ASD. In the GAMES Project, we will test whether computer games that have improved executive control, self-regulation and brain function among young, typically developing children are beneficial for children with ASD.

Eligibility for Study Participation:
7-11 year olds with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.

Participation Details:
This project is no longer recruiting. Families in the ‘waiting’ group will be receiving intervention.

Full Description:
Executive function is the ability to manage complex or conflicting information in the service of attaining a goal. It is necessary when conflicting thoughts, feelings, or responses must be resolved or a learned response must be inhibited. Executive functioning skills improve throughout development and encompass a range of interrelated domains, including inhibition, attention regulation, set-shifting and working memory.

Executive function is especially important for children with ASD because, in addition to core ASD symptoms, over half of school-age children with ASD exhibit deficits in executive function in the absence of general intellectual disability. Difficulties can start in childhood and persist throughout adulthood. The ability to manage conflicting information and perspectives is an important social skill. In particular, the ability to represent the thoughts, beliefs and feelings of others is related to executive function, above and beyond language ability and intelligence.

For more information contact gamesproject@childrens.harvard.edu

Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT)

What is the study about?
The aim of the consortium is to develop reliable and objective measurements of social function and communication in people with autism. Using EEG to measure brain function, eye tracking technology to measure visual attention, and automated recording techniques to assess behavior and speech, children will be monitored over a six-month period. In addition to the behavioral measures and biomarker data, this community resource will also include DNA samples from children with ASD and their parents for use in future genetic studies. The goal is to create a set of measures that can be used in clinical trials to determine which treatments are best for which patients and who will benefit from a particular treatment. The ultimate goal is to validate a set of tools that will enable clinicians to objectively measure and predict how children with ASD respond to treatment.

How much time does it take?
Caregivers will complete a screening phone call and questionnaires about their child. Children will complete in-person study visits to Boston Children's Hospital over a 6 month period. Scheduling is flexible including weekends.

Who can be in the study? We are currently recruiting both typically developing children and children with a diagnosis of ASD.

Who do I contact if I'm interested in hearing more about the study? To learn more about the study or to participate, please call us at 857-218-3182 or email abc-ct@childrens.harvard.edu.

Project CRUSH:Competence in Romance and Understanding Sexual Health

Help develop dating & sexuality training for adults on the autism spectrum

Brief Description:
The purpose of the study is to learn what factors (if any) impact the ability of adults on the autism spectrum to gain and use knowledge about dating and sexual relationships. Our goal is to work with adults on the spectrum to develop a new knowledge- and skills-based training program to meet their specific sexual health and dating needs. It is important to learn from adults on the spectrum about what kinds of information and skills are most important and how to best measure change in dating and sexual outcomes.

Eligibility for Study Participation:
18- to 26-year-old verbal adults on the autism spectrum

Participation Details:
Participation will include one phone call and two in person visits. During the study, researchers will collect information about dating and romance, sexuality, and training preferences. A close relation will be asked to respond to a brief questionnaire and there is an optional part of the study for parents or caregivers.

Adults on the spectrum, their family members, and service providers will help develop a new intervention specifically for adults on the autism spectrum. All participants will receive a small payment for participating and free parking. In addition, feedback about some testing will be provided.

For more information contact ProjectCRUSH@childrens.harvard.edu

Individual Development of Executive Attention (IDEA) Study

Why do some children respond differently to early interventions?

Brief Description:
The Faja Lab is examining the early development of executive control - how children think while working toward a goal, learning to do something new, or controlling their behavior. This project will examine whether behavior and brain responses related to executive control are tied to social development and treatment response over time. We are especially interested in comparing the development of executive control for children with autism spectrum disorder, other developmental delays, and children with no developmental concerns.

Eligibility for Study Participation:

  • 2-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns
  • 4-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (or concerns about autism), developmental delays, or no developmental concerns

Participation Details:
Participation will include visits over three years in order to track development. Each year will include: 

  •  3 visits to Boston Children’s Hospital with activities to evaluate each child’s developmental level, language and social functioning, and interaction style. Visits will also include a series of games to assess each child’s problem solving skills.
  • An EEG, which is a non-invasive recording of brain activity.
  • Completion of questionnaires.
  • The first year will also include two phone calls to determine if the study is a good fit and collect some preliminary information about each child.

All families will receive a written report with information about their child’s current developmental level, free parking, childcare for siblings during visits, and a small payment for participating. For children with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay, families will also receive recommendations about how to access intervention services.

For more information contact ideastudy@childrens.harvard.edu

Future Projects 

We also anticipate future projects that will seek:

  • Twins with autism spectrum disorders and typical development.
  • Adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

If you are potentially interested, please sign up for our participant registry.

Please continue to check this website for updates about when recruitment will begin for these studies. You can also sign up for the Division of Developmental Medicine Participant Registry if you are interested in hearing about studies in your child(ren)'s age range. Please click the button below to sign up, and here for more details.

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