The overarching goal of this Mentored Clinical Scientist Award is to allow the applicant to develop requisite expertise that is essential for conducting neurobiological assessments of amygdala function in children with autism. Funds from the K08 award would allow reduction of clinical responsibilities and enable the candidate to pursue a series of investigations that are designed to provide an important context for career development in translational clinical research. The central component of the training program is mentorship in neuroimaging as it relates to the socioemotional functioning of children with autism. The long-term goal of the applicant is to develop an independent affective neuroscience research program that applies the methods of neuropsychology and neuroimaging to the study and treatment of children with autism. Several lines of research including neuropathology, lesion studies, and neuroimaging have provided converging evidence implicating the amygdala in the pathogenesis of autism. A central hypothesis of this proposal is that dysregulation of the amygdala contributes to various impairments in autism including increased response to potentially threatening stimuli, deficits in implicit and explicit emotion perception, and limited social behavior. The main research objective, therefore, is to use established functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) probes of the amygdala to evaluate its functional status in autism. The experiments include tasks that activate the amygdala across a range of processing skills from basic encoding of emotional information to social knowledge and judgment. The researchers propose that a disassociation exists in children with autism such that the amygdala is hyperactive in the basic detection of threat but does not serve the computationally more demanding role of conveying socioemotional relevance and context to other brain regions, such as the frontal lobe, during complex social situations. If true, the autistic amygdala might lead to the misperception of social situations through a failure to accurately read social cues resulting in inappropriate behavioral responding in social situations.