Center Research Projects

Motor Skill Learning in Autism

Autism is a disorder that presents in early childhood and is characterized by deviance and delays in development of reciprocal social interaction, communication, and the child’s range of interests and activities. Investigations of brain-behavior mechanisms contributing to autism have thus far principally relied on approaches adapted from adult lesion-based models in which existing cognitive and behavioral domains (e.g., attention, perception, executive function) are examined.  Despite the clear developmental nature of autism, relatively few studies have focused on detailed examination of neural mechanisms central to learning. Such an approach would be critical to understanding the developmental basis of autism and might also lead to improvements in therapeutic intervention. More >

Neurology of Deficient Response Control in ADHD

ADHD is the most common neuropsychiatric disorder in childhood, affecting an estimated 3-8% of children. The core behavioral symptoms of this disorder (inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity) cause impairment in family and social relationships and in school performance.  The impact of ADHD is amplified further through its comorbidity with a number of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning disabilities and Tourette syndrome.  Although the causes of ADHD are unknown, recent research clearly identifies ADHD as a neurobiological disorder. More >

Anomalous Motor Physiology in ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioral diagnosis in childhood. It incurs high medical costs and can contribute to poor academic achievement, adult mental illness, substance abuse, and criminal behavior. Standard treatments, such as stimulant medications, primarily target symptoms and long-term follow-up studies of children treated for ADHD reveal that their outcomes remain significantly worse as compared to typically developing peers. A critical obstacle to improving long term ADHD treatment outcomes is the lack of quantitative markers which correlate with symptoms and reveal neurobiological mechanisms in ways that could point toward more accurate prognosis and more effective future treatments.
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Delay Discounting in ADHD

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in childhood and is associated with functional impairments across multiple academic and social domains throughout the life span. It has become increasingly clear that there are multiple causes of ADHD and functional outcomes for individuals with ADHD are dependent on a number of factors. Intensive, evidence-based treatments for ADHD (i.e., behavior modification and stimulant medication) are generally effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD, although many individuals with ADHD continue to show both symptoms and functional impairment, despite receiving treatment. Understanding the factors related to which individuals will respond to treatment and how treatments work are crucial to improving the outcomes for individuals with ADHD. More >

Traumatic Brain Injury Studies:

Neural Correlates of Response Control in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Children with traumatic brain injury often have difficulty with regulating their responses to the environment.  For example, many children will have slowed response times as well as difficulty inhibiting unwanted responses or behaviors.  We have two studies evaluating response control in children with mild complicated to severe TBI in association with parent report on the child’s “real-world” function and imaging studies. More >

Somatosensory Information Processing in Children with Concussion

Currently the “gold standard” for evaluating recovery from concussion is to ensure that a child is symptom-free and performing at his/her typical level of pre-injury function prior to return to activities which put the child at risk for another injury to the head.  Research suggests, however, that the brain may be functioning differently to support return to typical function after a concussion. More >

Body Fluid Markers of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The ability to identify early after a TBI what kind of assistance a child will need in the months after injury would be very helpful for planning for the child’s care and identifying which children may most benefit from early treatments to optimize outcome after injury.  Research suggests that measuring the amounts of certain proteins in the blood, urine, and/or cerebrospinal fluid after a TBI may be useful for this purpose. More >