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

Electrophysiological, metabolic and behavioral markers of infants at risk  

Early diagnosis of autism is key to ensuring the best possible outcome for children with the disorder. Unfortunately, children are not typically diagnosed with autism until they are around three years old. What's more, behavioral measures that might predict an autism diagnosis in high-risk infants generally aren't provided for babies younger than one year of age. Charles A. Nelson and his colleagues at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School are looking for neural markers of the disorder that could be detected between 3 and 12 months of age, long before more noticeable differences emerge in the child's natural behavior. They are using sophisticated neuroimaging tools to measure the brain's electric and metabolic activity, as well as behavioral assays such as eye tracking, to search for neural differences between high- and low-risk infants. Electroencephalography tests have already revealed that the two groups of infants show differences in brain activity when looking at familiar and unfamiliar faces. Measures of visual attention have also revealed differences between the two groups, such as in the infants' attention to their mother's eyes versus a stranger's eyes. The team plans to track the development of language, social and cognitive abilities in children from 3 months to 3 years old, to determine which of the markers observable between 3 and 12 months can be used to predict an eventual autism diagnosis at 3 years of age. Nelson and his team believe their findings will open the door to predicting high autism risk — and thus the opportunity for earlier interventions — in infants as young as 3 months old. Project Status


Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $378,750.50
Current Award Period 2009-2012
Project Number 137186
Principal Investigator Nelson, Charles
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 1: When Should I Be Concerned? (Diagnosis)
Subcategory Early Signs and Biomarkers
Strategic Plan Objective Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 1LA. Identify behavioral and biological markers that separately, or in combination, accurately identify, before age 2, one or more subtypes of children at risk for developing ASD, and evaluate whether these risk markers or profiles can improve early identification through heightened developmental monitoring and screening by 2014. IACC Recommended Budget: $33,300,000 over 5 years.
Federal or Private? Private
Institution Children's Hospital Boston
State/Country Massachusetts
Web Link 1 Electrophysiological, metabolic and behavioral markers of infants at risk (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
New! History/Related Projects Electrophysiological, metabolic and behavioral markers of infants at risk | $92,396.50 | 2009 | 137186