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VT Center for Autism Research

    Welcome to VTCAR
    Welcome to VTCAR

VTCAR Annual Autism Conference- SAVE THE DATE! October 3, 2014

Keynote Speaker- Dr. Christopher Monk, University of Michigan

    CSM Image


Visit our News and Updates page for additional information!

Call for Abstracts!

Abstract submission deadline: July 28th

Notification of acceptance: August 21st

Authors must designate whether they want their submission to be considered as an oral paper or poster presentation.  Presentations will last approximately 20 minutes and there will be a few minutes allocated at the end of each talk for questions from conference attendees. If an abstract is not accepted as an oral paper it will automatically be considered for a poster. Topics must align with one of the following core areas of VTCAR:

Core Areas:

  • Biomedical and Imaging
  • Technology
  • Education
  • Clinical Translational

Visit our News and Updates page for additional information and instructions regarding abstract submission!

VTCAR Receives NIH Grants

Title: Development and Testing of a Novel Neurotechnology to Promote Emotion Recognition in Autism

Investigators: Susan White (PI, Psychology) and Co-PIs John Richey (Psychology), Martha Ann Bell (Psychology), Denis Gracanin (CHCI), Stephen LaConte (VTCRI), and Inyoung Kim (Statistics) 

Description: The goal of this project is to develop an assistive technology to promote facial emotion recognition in ASD. The investigators propose that facial emotion recognition can be rehabilitated using a brain-computer interface device.  The investigators plan to create a facial emotion recognition, which would be a virtual reality-based iPad application to assist users with emotion recognition by manipulating the avatar’s emotion intensity until it is recognized by the user at the neural level. The interface is user-friendly and game-like, to promote ease of use and eventual dissemination. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial is to assess feasibility including acceptability of the intervention, recruitment and randomization procedures, intervention implementation, blinded assessment procedures, and participant retention within the context of a randomized controlled trial.

Title: Data Mining for Autism Endophenotypes in a Large-Scale Resting State fMRI Repository

Investigator: John Richey

Description: The purpose of the current proposal is to use computational neuroscience to empirically identify endophenotypes of ASD in a large scale resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) repository (the Autism Brain Imaging Exchange [ABIDE], N~1,112 [ASD N=539]). Specifically, we propose to use resting-state connectivity maps in conjunction with group iterative multiple model estimation (Gates & Molenaar, 2012) and community structure detection (Newman, 2006) to generate empirically-derived subgroups of ASD who share similar brain network properties. The rationale for this approach is as follows. It has been widely acknowledged that ASD is a vastly heterogeneous disorder (e.g. Volkmar et al., 2004). It is also increasingly accepted that ASD is a “network-disorder”, involving complex degradation of brain networks. However, prior work in network-analysis of ASD has generally ignored this heterogeneity, and proceeded in traditional between-groups (ASD vs. Control) comparison. Our objective here is to determine if heterogeneity within ASD can actually be useful information, which facilitates the identification of subgroups (communities) whose brain network properties are similar [AIM 1], and whose symptoms cluster together [AIM 2]. Our target network will be the Default-Mode Network (DMN), a brain system that is 1) anchored in the posteromedial cortex, and 2) involved in multiple forms of social cognition that are known to be disrupted in ASD. Based on recent, well-conducted studies of DMN in autism, (e.g., Lynch et al., 2013; Rudie et al., 2012; Washington et al., 2013), we hypothesize that DMN has a heterogeneous connectivity profile in ASD, and that connectivity within the DMN can be used to parse subtypes of autism. We further predict that these individual patterns of connectivity are strongly related to individual differences in the phenotypic presentation of ASD based on the topography of connections. Our approach represents a substantially different way of using heterogeneity, and we provide extensive simulations to demonstrate the computational feasibility of endophenotype generation, and also the method by which endophenotypes will be linked to behavioral data available through ABIDE. We feel that our novel approach, in combination with the largest ASD resting-state fMRI repository ever created will stimulate vertical progress by overcoming problems associated with small sample size, univariate approaches and missing or inconsistent phenotypic data.

Congratulations to these VTCAR investigators!

VTCAR Award Program

VTCAR is supporting a student fellow and award program. The winners of this years awards are below.  We are excited to support the fantastic work these students are carrying out with their mentors and within their labs.

Congratulations students!

Marika Coffman (Advisor: Dr. John Richey)

Autism Susceptibility Genes, Copy Number Variation and their Synthesis with Neuroimaging Data

*Marika was also named the 2014 VTCAR Student Fellow of the Year for her project and will be presenting at the 2014 VTCAR Annual Conference*

Emma E. Condy (Advisor: Dr. Bruce Friedman)

Autonomic Arousal in Autism

Tyler Anne Hassenfeldt (Advisor: Dr. Angela Scarpa)

Parenting Stress and Family Functioning as Related to School Variables in Neurotypical Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Merage Ghane (Advisor: Dr. John Richey)

Connectivity of Visual Attention and Valuation Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Implications for Social Functioning

Jill Lorenzi (Advisor: Dr. Angela Scarpa)

Young Adults’ Social Interest in Complex Film Clips: Impact of Autism Characteristics

Andrea Sharpe (Advisor: Dr. Amy Azano)

Understanding the Influence of Rurality on Students with Autism


New Research Project

We are enrolling adults (age 18 and up) with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to participate in a research project about self-care and self-harm behaviors. The study involves completing an anonymous online survey, which should take approximately 45 minutes. All participants will receive a $10 gift card for completing the survey. This project, supervised by Susan White, Ph.D., has been approved for data collection by Virginia Tech’s institutional review board. Please visit or call 540-231-6744 if you would like more information about the study.

In need of an ASD assessment?

VTCAR offers various Assessment Options.  Please visit our Assessments page for additional information.

*We are especially looking for children and adults who are interested in completing an ADOS-2 with one of our trainees.  You will receive a full clinical summary of the ADOS-2 as a result of participating in this training with us. Contact us for additional information and available appointments.

The VTAC/VTCAR Autism Research Registry

VTCAR is looking for individuals to be a part of the VTCAR Autism Research Registry .  The Registry serves as a database for VTCAR researchers that can be used for participant recruitment.  If you are interested in being contacted for participation in our research, please complete the Registry survey.

Contact Information

Address: 460 Turner Street, Clinical Science Suite (Suite 203), Blacksburg VA
Phone: 540-231-8747

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