Autism Research at MRN
Led by Drs. Jeffrey David Lewine and Julia Stephen, autism research at MRN spans an age range from toddlers through adulthood, with studies exploring all levels of severity for the autism spectrum disorders. Supported by an RO1 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, Dr. Lewine has been studying the relationships between auditory processing, epilepsy, and language skills in autism. This research is designed to better understand language dysfunction in autism for the purpose of developing better therapeutic strategies. These studies involve detailed diagnositc, cognitive, and imaging assessments, with feedback provided to the family. Dr. Stephen’s research, also previously funded by the National Institutes of Health, uses brain imaging and simple sensory paradigms to probe early indications of atypical brain connectivity in children with autism as young as 15 months of age. The long-term goal of this work is to find markers of atypical brain development that can be utilized in infants prior to diagnosis to allow for the earliest intervention possible.
In addition to research on the basic biology of autism, the MRN team is directly involved in the development and evaluation of new treatment strategies. Dr. Lewine has received an award from the NIH to develop a new music-based therapy – Auditory Processing Training – to ameliorate sound hypersensitivity and other auditory processing problems in autism. He is also working with a California company on the development of a special EEG cap to enable sleep studies at home, to look for sleep problems and possible night-time epileptic and seizure activity. Dr. Lewine is also a site Principal Investigator on a clinical trial looking at the ability of Memantine to improve core social skills, and he is actively researching other treatment strategies including Auditory Integration Training, Irlen Colored Glasses, Interactive Metronome, and EEG-based Neurofeedback.