Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Testing neurological models of autism  

Dr. Adolphs and his team plan to test the hypothesis that people with autism process faces in unusual ways, leading to difficulty in social interactions, by studying how people with autism interpret and respond to the cues from human faces. These studies might aid in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder. Most observers spontaneously focus on the eyes and the mouth, but autistic brains do not interpret information from these facial features normally. The researchers plan to compare the eye movements in people with autism with people who have lesions in two brain regions — the amygdala and the corpus callosum — that are thought to be dysfunctional in autism. The amygdala integrates sensory inputs such as sight with memories to evaluate the meaning of a facial expression. The corpus callosum contains the projections of many neurons from one side of the brain to the other, which are necessary for complex neurological processes. Autism has been associated with both low activity in the amygdala and with poor connections within the corpus callosum, but it is unclear at which step the visual processing of faces fails in people with the disorder. Eye movements can be measured quantitatively to compare the visual explorations and the neural responses of the three groups so that the researchers can determine the neurological process by which people with autism interpret facial expressions. Project Status


Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $315,525.68
Project Number SFARI-07-01
Principal Investigator Adolphs, Ralph
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 2: How Can I Understand What Is Happening? (Biology)
Strategic Plan Objective 2O. Not specific to Question 2 objectives
Federal or Private? Private
Institution California Institute of Technology
State/Country California
Web Link 1 Testing neurological models of autism (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
History/Related Projects Testing neurological models of autism | $315,525.64 | 2010 | SFARI-07-01
Testing neurological models of autism | $315,525.68 | 2008 | Project number unavailable