Vardan Arutiunian, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Vardan Arutiunian isa postdoctoral fellow in Sara Jane Webb’s lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. in linguistics from the Center for Language and Brain at HSE University in Moscow, Russia in the field of language and communication in autism.In his research, Arutiunian uses behavioral assessment, genetic approaches and neurobiological methods (magnetoencephalography, electroencephalography, brain morphometry) to investigate variability of language skills as well as structural and functional brain mechanisms of language impairment in children with autism. He received a number of research and teaching awards from several organizations, including the European Union, and has published eight articles in international peer-reviewed journals.

Principal Investigator: Sara Webb

Fellows: Aya Sahib & Xinyue Yu

Undergraduate Fellow Project:

Although language impairment is not considered a core characteristic of autism, it is known that language and communication difficulties are among its earliest risk markers. Little is known about the early neurophysiological mechanisms of language as related to later autistic social attention and communication alterations. Specifically, we explore how different components of spectra (periodic, reflecting oscillatory part of the spectra; and aperiodic, reflecting arrhythmic component of neural field) may be altered in infants at elevated risk for autism using tasks that include natural language and communication. In this project, 30 typical likelihood infants and 247 infants at elevated risk for developing autism (due medical risk) are included. EEG was recorded at 6 and 12 months, with concurrent behavioral assessment of language and social communication. Autism behaviors are assessed at 24 and 36 months. During EEG recording, infants were presented with videos or live interaction that included naturalist infant directed language or a non-social non-linguistic condition. The main goals are to assess how different components of the spectra:1) relate to linguistic social attention, 2) change during the first year of life, 3) relate to concurrent language abilities, and 4) may predict language and social communication outcomes.

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