Towards a Transformative, Translational Developmental Neuroscience of Autisms

Towards a Transformative, Translational Developmental Neuroscience of Autisms: Kevin Pelphrey, Ph.D., Harris Professor in the Child Study Center and Professor of Psychology, Yale University

November 4, 2015


As humans, we are constantly engaging in social cognition, using cues from facial expressions, gaze shifts, and body movements to infer the intentions of others and plan our own actions accordingly. In this talk, I will describe my laboratory’s research using functional neuroimaging techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to chart the development of brain mechanisms for social cognition in typically developing infants, children, and adolescents. Our work has served to characterize the functional properties and development, from infancy to adulthood of a set network of interacting, distributed neuroanatomical structures dedicated to processing social meaning. With this understanding of the typical development of the neural basis of social cognition as a backdrop, I will describe our efforts to chart the atypical development of these brain mechanisms in infants at increased risk for developing autism and children with autism, as well as their unaffected siblings. I will describe a developmental experimental therapeutics approach to using social neuroscience findings in the developmental and evaluation of behavioral and pharmacological treatments for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.