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VT Center for Autism Research

    Welcome to VTCAR
    Welcome to VTCAR
    Temple Grandin



Special Thanks to Dr. Temple Grandin


In addition to her other speaking engagements this week, the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research was pleased to host a talk entitled "Autism and My Sensory-Based World" by Dr. Temple Grandin on Thursday, December 4, 2014.  Dr. Grandin is well-known for her work in animal behavior as well as her success as a person with autism and an autism advocate.  She has been featured in the New York Times, on NPR, and was the subject of an HBO movie.  Her best-selling books include, "The Way I See It," "The Autistic Brain," and "Different Not Less."  Dr. Grandin, who lectures to parents and teachers throughout the country about her experiences, is the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.



VTCAR Fall 2014 Speaker Series


VTCAR holds a Speaker Series to encourage collaboration across current and interested affiliates, and to reach out to the community. We are pleased to invite all affiliates and the community to attend these talks. They are held on selected Fridays, from 1-2pm at the North End Center (NEC) on the Blacksburg VT campus, with a small Meet & Greet social reception starting at 12:30pm. Below is our series of speakers with exact dates and room numbers. We hope to see you there!

Fall 2014 Speaker Series (PDF | 192KB)

Non-VT guests can park on the 3rd floor or higher in the NEC parking lot, and must obtain validation for free parking.


 Speaker Series Overview

“Early Physiological Developmental Trajectories Related to ASD”
Michelle Patriquin, Ph.D.

Oct 17, NEC room 2200

"Executive Functioning and ASD"
Lauren Kenworthy, Ph.D.

Nov 7, NEC room 2200

"Technology and Cognitive Disabilities"
Scott McCrickard, Ph.D.

Dec 5, NEC room 2200



VTCAR Researchers Receive 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.

Title: STEPS: Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with ASD

Investigator: Susan White

Description: Young adults who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) without co-occurring intellectual impairment face a fairly unique set of challenges as they transition out of secondary school. These students are often quite capable of succeeding in higher education and many of them have interest in pursuing advanced degrees, but the nature of their disability and associated deficits (e.g., poor time management and poor self-regulation) may impede success. Individualized, appropriately timed, and developmentally sensitive transition and support services may promote realization of optimal outcomes for these young people. The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive program to promote successful transition of students with ASD from high school to post-secondary education. We propose to refine and then evaluate a novel transition support and intervention program for adolescents and young adults with ASD: STEPS [Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with ASD]. By targeting improved self-regulation (SR) and self-determination (SD) in young people with ASD, we assert that this program may have positive outcomes with respective to college adjustment and functional behavior.

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



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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