Autism Multi-site Study:
Our autism project, part of a consortium with collaborators throughout the U.S., uses fMRI to understand how the brain learns social communication skills and how these skills are impaired in children with autism and Asperger's disorder, a form of mild autism. Such children may be intellectually normal or even advanced, but lack the ability to understand social nuances, relate to peers, and form strong emotional bonds. This work explores how the brain learns to respond to facial emotion, tone of voice, and non-verbal communication, and how these skills can develop abnormally. Our results may help us find ways to intervene in these difficult disorders and to suggest better educational environments for such children. Please see our autism website for a complete description of the UCLA Center for Autirm Research and Treatment www.autism.ucla.edu
Our dyslexia program explores the brain activity in children whose reading abilities do not match their intellectual potential. These studies attempt to identify unique brain activity "signatures" that represent different underlying causes of dyslexia. Such research should help us design treatments that are optimized for each child's unique strengths and weaknesses. we have also studied the effects of treatment on changes in brain activity, using the Fast ForWord program.
Gifted and Talented Children:
Exceptional Children One area of great interest in our lab is the study of highly gifted and creative children. Many of these children have an unusual mix of abilities and disabilities: highly intellectual, but with attention problems (ADHD); exceptional mathematical skills, but difficulty making friends; tremendously artistic, but poor or average reading ability. Exceptional children are studied rarely, because the primary funding agency for pediatric research (NIH) prefers to support research on disease states and disorders, leaving exceptional children ignored. Unfortunately, our school systems are poorly equipped to deal with children who are on either end of the spectrum, so that these children receive little attention in the educational or healthcare system. Consequently, current science knows almost nothing about what makes these children different, what it is about their brains that drives these differences, and how educators and parents can best meet their special needs and nurture their abilities. We are eager to develop opportunities to engage in such research in our lab.