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MIT's McGovern Institute researchers awarded $8.5M to study brain basis of autism and dyslexia
Date:1/31/2008

Two researchers at MITs McGovern Institute for Brain Research will head an ambitious new project to study the origins of autism and dyslexia, supported by a $8.5M grant from the Ellison Medical Foundation. The project leaders, Nancy Kanwisher and John Gabrieli, are prominent experts in neuroimaging and human brain development.

Autism and dyslexia are complex brain disorders that first appear in early childhood. Autism impairs social interactions and communication, and affected individuals may engage in bizarre and repetitive behaviors. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that manifests itself as reading difficulty despite adequate education and otherwise normal perceptual and intellectual abilities.

Little is known about the causes of either disorder, although both are highly heritable. In both cases, it is thought that the earlier treatments begin, the more effectively they help the child compensate. Thus, it is important to develop methods for early diagnosis, and scientists believe that non-invasive brain imaging may be a means to this end.

Human neuroimaging methods have advanced greatly over the last five years, and a major emphasis of the new project will be to translate these advances to pediatric neuroimaging. Brain imaging with young children presents many challenges, not least of which is their inability to lie still for long periods in the scanner. The McGovern investigators will collaborate with neuroimaging experts Larry Wald, Bruce Fischl and Ellen Grant at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), who will develop scanning coils designed specifically for childrens heads, along with new procedures to shorten scan times and methods to analyze data from brains that are not yet fully developed.

We expect these technological advances to radically improve pediatric neuroimaging and help us make major strides in understanding typical and atypical human brain development, comments Kanwisher, the Ellen Swallow Richards Profess
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Contact: Charles Jennings
charlesj@mit.edu
617-324-3977
McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Source:Eurekalert

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