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Structural and functional networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome

Principal Investigator:
  • Alan Evans, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University
Team Members:
  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, University of Alberta
  • Louis Collins, McGill University
  • Pierre Bellec , Université de Montreal 
  • Mayada Elsabbagh, McGill University
  • Sherif Karama, McGill University
  • Joseph Piven, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
  • Heather Cody Hazlett, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
  • John Pruett, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Kelly Botteron, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Azrieli Foundation
  • National Bank of Canada

Project Overview

Many childhood disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), are a result of abnormal growth and connections throughout the brain, rather than being caused by some specific pathology, such as a tumour. For meaningful diagnosis, prognosis and intervention for these devastating disorders to be able to occur, new techniques need to be developed that can detect these faulty “wiring” patterns early in life. For this project, Dr. Evans and his team are developing advanced techniques to identify such early alterations in brain networks and use them to investigate ASD and FXS. The project expertise in brain imaging and network analysis from Canada with a unique US population of infants at risk for developing ASD, i.e. infants having a sibling already diagnosed with ASD. The Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) has already collected an extensive amount of data from 600+ at-risk infants but little analysis has yet been published due to funding constraints. The project builds upon previous work of the IBIS team to explore a range of techniques that measure how well the brain is “wired”. Canadian and U.S. IBIS scientists will work together on these issues. By studying at-risk infants as early as 3 months old, the team hopes to develop an early biomarker for the development of ASD or FXS. This work may also suggest a strategy for early intervention to reduce the impact of these disorders.