What types of studies do we do?

We perform several different studies examining the brain structure and function in autism using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). We will take pictures of your brain while you are reading sentences, viewing pictures, or solving problems. These pictures will help us understand how the brain functions in people with autism. We will also investigate how different areas in the brain are working together as a unit in accomplishing a complex function. Learning about brain function and dysfunction in people with autism may contribute to the design of intervention and training programs that can target the brain function.

Why should I participate?

First of all, the participants will receive a diagnostic, neuropsychological, language and social evaluation at no charge. Participants will be compensated monetarily for your time and effort in helping us. In addition, your participation will help increase our understanding of brain function during thinking and further help us characterize the brain organization in people with autism. This could lead to the development of intervention and treatment strategies for the disorder.

fMRI scanning

For the brain imaging, you will be asked to lie on your back on a padded table inside a large cylindrical magnet for a period of 60-90 minutes. You will wear a head coil on your head, which looks like a big football helmet with spaces for your eyes to look out. Foam padding will be put in the head coil to help steady your head and keep it from moving. You will wear ear plugs to help quiet down the loud intermittent sounds the magnet will make when it is collecting brain pictures. An intercom system will allow communication between you and the MR technologist in the control room to talk to each other. During most of the time in the magnet, you will be asked to stay still. The tasks will be presented to you in the form of a series of questions presented visually on a screen that you will be able to see by looking straight ahead into a mirror attached to the front of your helmet. You will indicate your answers to the questions by pushing one of two buttons on a response pad with your hand. When the screen is blank, you will be asked to simply look at the center of the screen. After a set of trials, you will have brief rest periods. After each activity, the investigator or a research assistant will talk to you through the intercom in order to get you ready for the next task. Once all three tasks are finished, then we will take some more pictures of your brain while you are doing nothing in the scanner. At this time you can watch a bit of a movie you want in the scanner. Your entire time in the magnet will be about 60 minutes.

Contact Us

If you are interested in participating, please give us a call at (205) 996-9368 and we will be happy to answer your questions and schedule a time to meet that is convenient to you.