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Webinar: Kevin Pelphrey discusses neuroimaging and autism

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Greg Boustead
10 February 2014

On 19 February, Kevin Pelphrey highlighted his lab’s recent neuroimaging work and presented what he calls “a transformative, translational, developmental neuroscience of autism.”

He discussed the use of functional brain imaging to explore the development of social cognition, and described ways in which imaging can help illuminate faulty mechanisms in the brains of people with autism and lead to potential interventions. Pelphrey is Harris Professor in the Child Study Center and director of the Child Neuroscience Laboratory at Yale University.

You can watch a complete replay of the webinar above.

Use the comments section below to submit questions we didn’t have time to discuss during the Q&A session or to pose follow-up questions for Pelphrey.

Check out the SFARI Webinar Series for a listing of future sessions.

Press policy: The SFARI Webinar Series aims to facilitate the free exchange of ideas among autism researchers, including discussion of published and unpublished research, hypotheses and results. Members of the press may report information presented during a SFARI webinar only if that material has already been published elsewhere or they have first obtained express written consent from the presenter.

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Name: Lauren Libero, University of Alabama at Birmingham
20 February 2014 - 4:19PM

Interesting talk! Going back to the classification study, do you think the classification was not as effective for girls due to overall differences in activation (e.g., girls with ASD don't differ as much in activation for biological motion compared to boys with ASD)?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:45PM

Thanks, yes, this is exactly the hypotheses we are following up now.

Name: Costanza Carmi, Kennedy Krieger Institute
20 February 2014 - 4:20PM

Are there studies being done looking at the lateral temporal lobe/inferior frontal gyrus and their role in understanding and producing emotional tone?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:47PM

I am not sure exactly what you mean by emotional tone, but if you mean emotional regulation and expression, then yes we are interested in the concepts and their role in autism. We are conducting studies of these issues right now.

Name: Evelyn Meinert, ICAN Talk Clinic - AAC Institute
20 February 2014 - 4:21PM

Could you briefly describe PVT?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:48PM

Sure, it is actually PRT, or Pivotal Response Treatment. And I would direct you here for a good overview: http://www.autismprthelp.com/about-prt.php.

Name: Audrey Quinlan
20 February 2014 - 4:22PM

Are gains maintained over time after Pivotal training?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:49PM

We are not sure yet if the fMRI results will be maintained over time. We are doing that study now.

Name: Keith Landherr , CBI Health Group
20 February 2014 - 4:22PM

Dr. Pelphrey, Have you looked at sensory processing in relation to your work?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:50PM

Yes, we have studied the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems so far.

Name: Geraldine Bliss, Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation
20 February 2014 - 8:15PM

What % of patients had de novo mutations...or were they excluded? Were the findings from de novo patients' siblings the same as in TD controls?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:52PM

About 8% of our sample had de novo mutations, consistent with what was seen in the broader SSC sample. We did not exclude them.

Name: Mariana Aparicio Betancourt, University of Illinois
26 February 2014 - 6:20PM

Thanks for the talk. Did you see differences in activation in the TPJ across groups? Also, did these kids engage in any overt behavioral tasks (e.g. identifying agents and non-agents or more specifically mentalizing tasks)? If your group did look at this have you examined potential associations between performance in the behavioral tasks and brain activation?

Name: Kevin Pelphrey
2 March 2014 - 10:55PM

We did see reliable differences in the TPJ (temporal-parietal junction) across groups. We tend to call this the posterior superior temporal sulcus region and the inferior parietal lobule. We have repeatedly reported group difference in autism in this region. No, in most of our studies we do not include overt behavioral tasks. We are most interested in the behavior of the central nervous system and not so much overt behavior which tends to be indeterminate with regard to underlying mechanism.

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