Skip to content
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
Autism Research Database
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC)
 
Project Element Element Description

Project Title

Project Title

Factors influencing early associative learning as a precursor to social behavior heterogeneity

Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator

Knoll, Allison

Description

Description

Disrupted social engagement is a hallmark feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although developmental processes are implicated in the etiology of ASD, early detection and intervention strategies have been hindered by our limited understanding of genetic and environmental factors governing social brain development. Infants accomplish much of their learning within a social context, but it is unknown whether social cues modulate the efficacy of early learning. Newborns show a preference for social stimuli, suggesting that social cues may bias attention and information processing systems to learn more selectively and efficiently from social partners. In studies of human infants, the research team found enhanced learning when infants were trained with social compared to non-social cues. Most remarkably it was determined that the rate of infant learning predicts the quality of later social development. This study hypothesizes that social factors in a child's environment shape their learning and brain development, and that this important aspect of development is influenced by three neurochemical systems-the oxytocin (OXT), arginine-vasopressin (AVP) and mu opioid receptor systems-which are implicated in adult social behavior and motivation. The study will identify factors governing early learning and social development by employing parallel research strategies in mouse models and humans. The research team will examine if manipulating genes involved in adult social behavior affects social or non-social associative learning in mice. The research training team will also examine if allelic variants in the OXT and AVP receptor genes are associated with heterogeneity in learning or social development in children participating in human learning studies. These studies will provide insight into neurochemicals governing early learning and social development. The data will be paired with clinical observations of children undergoing assessment for ASD at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, analysis of autism-relevant phenotyping data collected in a clinical autism study, and observations of social-cognitive assessments in typically developing children. These mentored translational experiences add neurodevelopmental, mouse and human genetics, and clinical dimensions to the fellows prior training in adult social-emotional behavior, and provide an exciting opportunity to develop infant learning measures as an early and non-invasive biomarker for social development.

Funder

Funder

Autism Speaks

Fiscal Year Funding

Fiscal Year Funding

54500

Current Award Period

Current Award Period

2012-2014

Strategic Plan Question

Strategic Plan Question

Question 2: How Can I Understand What Is Happening?

Strategic Plan Objective

Strategic Plan Objective

Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 2SG. Support five studies that associate specific genotypes with functional or structural phenotypes, including behavioral and medical phenotypes (e.g., nonverbal individuals with ASD and those with cognitive impairments) by 2015. IACC Recommended Budget: $22,600,000 over 5 years.

Project Link

Project Link

Factors influencing early associative learning as a precursor to social behavior heterogeneity (External web link)

Institution

Institution

University of Southern California

State/Country

State/Country

California

Project Number

Project Number

7595

Federal or Private?

Federal or Private?

Private

Received ARRA Funding?

Received ARRA Funding?

No

History/Related Projects

History/Related Projects

Factors influencing early associative learning as a precursor to social behavior heterogeneity | 53000 | 2012 | 7595
Factors influencing early associative learning as a precursor to social behavior heterogeneity | 0 | 2014 | 7595

 
Back to Top