Shafali Spurling Jeste is a behavioral child neurologist specializing in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is chief of the division of neurology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), co-director of the Neurological Institute at CHLA and a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).
After earning a B.A. in philosophy from Yale University in 1997 and her M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 2002, Jeste completed a residency in child neurology and a fellowship in behavioral child neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She then pursued postdoctoral training in developmental cognitive neuroscience with Charles Nelson at Harvard Medical School, where she gained expertise in the use of high-density electroencephalography (EEG) to characterize functional brain development in infancy and early childhood, particularly as it informs atypical development. She was recruited to UCLA CART in 2010 as the director of its biomarkers core. CART has played a leading role nationally and internationally in developing an improved understanding of the biological and psychosocial basis of autism and is the only center to be awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) grant three times, first in 2007, then in 2012 and most recently in 2017.
Jeste’s research is focused on developing methods to improve our precision in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) through the application of brain-based biomarkers and more targeted developmental phenotyping. Her lab studies NDDs from early infancy through late childhood, with a focus on syndromic forms of NDDs that is directly inspired by her clinical work with children and adults with suspected or identified genetic etiologies associated with NDDs. Jeste designed innovative studies in early predictors of autism in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) that integrate biomarkers with behavior to define atypical development prior to the onset of clinical symptoms of autism. Her work in TSC has led to the first randomized controlled clinical trial of a behavioral intervention in infants with TSC.
She is the Principal Investigator (PI) of an ACE study of high-risk infants, the PI of an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) study of biomarkers in Dup15q syndrome and the UCLA site PI of the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT), which is a multisite NIH research study focused on identifying brain based biomarkers in autism.
Jeste holds many national and international leadership positions including the board of directors of the American Brain Foundation and the board of directors of the International Society for Autism Research. She serves as the chair of the International Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC), and as the editor-in-chief of the Child Neurology Edition of the American Academy of Neurology CONTINUUM. Her research is funded by the NIH, the Department of Defense, SFARI, the Dup15q Alliance and Roche pharmaceuticals.