• Home
  • Research
  • Principal Research Project


child preparing for an MRI using a simulation

Principal Research Project (proposed):
Neurocognitive pathways of repetitive behaviors in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects multiple aspects of development. Many individuals with ASD show difficulties adjusting to changes in their environment or routines, and these challenges can interfere with individuals’ overall quality of life while also contributing to significant stress for their caregivers and family members. Treatments for these restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) often are not sufficient owing to large gaps in our understanding of underlying psychological and neurobiological mechanisms. The overall goal of this project is to define key neurocognitive, neurophysiological, and molecular processes associated with RRBs in individuals with ASD. Adolescence will be studied as this represents an important developmental epoch during which RRBs may become more frequent and intense. To determine underlying mechanisms, we will test two distinct neurocognitive processes, cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control, characterize their functional brain anatomy, and determine their relationships with peripheral serotonin and novel pharmacogenetic and metabolomic markers. This project will leverage important recruitment, phenotyping, and analytic services of each KIDDRC core to establish a more mechanistic understanding of RRBs and guide more objective, translational strategies for assessing target engagement and treatment gains in clinical trials of RRBs in ASD.

 

Investigators

Matthew Mosconi, PhD., Director, Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training (K-CART)
Interim Associate Director/Senior Scientist, Life Span Institute
Professor, Clinical Child Psychology Program
University of Kansas

Steve Leeder, PharmD, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutic Innovation
Children’s Mercy Hospital/University of Kansas Medical Center

Andrea Gaedigk, Ph.D.
Director, Pharmacogenetics Core Laboratory in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Medical Toxicology
Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine
Children’s Mercy Hospital/University of Kansas Medical Center

Kandace Fleming, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist, Research and Design Analysis
University of Kansas

Kathy Thiemann-Bourque, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor, Juniper Gardens Children's Project
University of Kansas

 

Principal Research Project (2015-2020):
 

This project has focused on language and communication in children with autism and minimal verbal skills (less than 20 spoken words). Remaining nonverbal past the age of 5 years has been considered a poor prognostic indicator for future language developments (Picket et al., 2009), yet few interventions have been developed to address this problem. The Specific Aims for this project are (1) to further investigate a multimodal intervention for school-age children with minimal verbal skills— defined as less than 20 words spontaneously spoken, signed, or selected via graphic symbol selection—and (2) to identify significant covariates associated with differential responding to the intervention. The research addresses an unmet need to promote spoken word production in children who remain essentially nonverbal well past the ages associated with speech acquisition. The project is also innovative because: a) it investigates a multimodal intervention based on principles of phonotactic probability and neighborhood density in combination with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and b) it investigates novel predictors of treatment response that are obtained through cutting-edge technologies. Ultimately this line of research aims to improve the lives of children with autism and their families through enhanced communication skills.
 

Investigators

Nancy Brady, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Speech-Language-Hearing
University of Kansas

Holly Storkel, Ph.D.
Professor, Speech-Language-Hearing
Associate Dean for Academic Innovation and Student Success
University of Kansas

Steven Warren, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor, Speech-Language-Hearing, Applied Behavioral Science
University of Kansas

Kandace Fleming, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist, Research and Design Analysis
University of Kansas