2021 SFARI Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science awardees announced

Image of child during eeg test

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The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that it intends to award 11 grants in response to the 2021 Human Cognitive and Behavioral Science request for applications (RFA).

This RFA supports innovative and clinically relevant research of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is intended to leverage recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and quantitative behavioral analysis to inform translational efforts such as biomarkers and outcome measures.

The projects selected for funding span topics including digital phenotyping of abnormal sleep physiology in ASD, psychophysical analysis of atypical sensory perception, cognitive antecedents in high-risk infants for autism and differences in perceptual integration in minimally verbal populations. A variety of experimental approaches will be used, including actigraphy, online cognitive assessments, machine-learning-based analysis of behavior, electroencephalography (EEG) and ‘wearable’ magnetoencephalography (OPM-MEG). Importantly, many of the projects will recruit participants from SPARK, a landmark genetic research project of over 100,000 individuals with ASD.

SFARI intends to provide approximately $6.9 million in funding over the next three years to 11 investigators as part of this RFA.

“On behalf of SFARI, I’d like to congratulate all of the investigators whose applications have been selected for funding,” says SFARI senior scientist Alice Luo Clayton. “We hope that increasing support for this topic will reveal important new insights into neurobehavioral differences associated with autism and will move us toward addressing key issues such as scalability and ecological validity.”

The projects that SFARI intends to fund are:

Maja Bucan, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)
Actimetry-based study of sleep traits in autism spectrum disorder

Jennifer Foss-Feig, Ph.D. (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)
A neuroscience-inspired digital platform for measuring social functions to parse heterogeneity and predict outcome in autism

Dara S. Manoach, Ph.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School)
Characterizing sleep physiology in autism: A path from genes to treatment

David McAlpine, Ph.D. (Macquarie University)
Autism and the adapting auditory brain

Christopher McDougle, M.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School)
The role of feedback in speech in autism: The missing perceptuomotor link

Sophie Molholm, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Neuro-oscillatory function and network communication in autism

Nicolaas Puts, Ph.D. (King’s College London)
Sensory biomarkers of core and associated symptoms of autism in preschool children with autism

Benjamin Scott, Ph.D. (Boston University)
Investigating mechanisms underlying perceptual integration in autism

Sarah Shultz, Ph.D. (Marcus Autism Center; Emory University) and Gordon Berman, Ph.D. (Emory University)
Pathogenic insight into autism from novel mapping of behavioral dynamics in the infant-caregiver dyad from 0 to 6 months

Margot Taylor, Ph.D. (Hospital for Sick Children; University of Toronto)
Investigating neural oscillations in early autism with innovative wearable MEG

Elena Tenenbaum, Ph.D. (Duke University School of Medicine) and Shafali Spurling Jeste, M.D. (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles)
Quantitative and remote methods to study early cognitive development and heterogeneity in autism

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