Neurobehavioral Science and Neurogenetics

At the Shriver Center, we have significant experience in the area of neurobehavioral science and neurogenetics research. Our group has developed computer-based methods to study a range of behaviors that are linked to regions of the brain, creating behavioral tasks that can be tailor-made for specific groups, for example, children, individuals with intellectual disabilities, and individuals with dementia. 

We have studied measures of development that may provide markers for how this may go awry early on in intellectual and developmental disabilities. These developmental markers are currently being studied among individuals with specific genetic abnormalities to determine how these are related. These markers are studied for genetic abnormalities ranging from large variations in chromosomes to individual genes.

In our research, we have related these early developmental measures to brain variation among individuals with these disabilities. We use the brainwave technique to acquire a direct measure of how each individual’s brain responds to specific information. This technique is being applied to questions related to face processing, basic learning, and arousal.

Ongoing Projects

Atypical Effects Of Reinforcement Procedures in ASD
William McIlvane
This study, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), examines the frequently observed variability of responses to basic behavioral processes, such as reinforcement, among children with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities. Better understanding of these differences may lead to more consistently effective behavior therapy outcomes in the future.

Neurobehavioral Evaluation of Schizophrenia
Curtis Deutsch
In this study, funded by the Sydney R. Baer Jr. Foundation, we are using neurocognitive measures of frontal lobe function to evaluate individual differences, providing the basis to characterize functional levels among diagnostic groups.

Investigating Shared Neurobiological Mechanisms of Autism and Schizophrenia
Curtis Deutsch
In this National Insititute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded project, we are studying developmental biological measures among individuals with these conditions, to determine which characteristics are distinctive to diagnosis, and which share overlapping features between diagnoses.

Balanced Trials Generator Software
Christophe Gerard
Funded by multiple institutes within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Commonwealth Medicine Division of UMass Medical School, Shriver Center faculty developed algorithms that are being used to rapidly and automatically construct trials for a variety of conditional discrimination sessions, saving the experimenter or teacher extensive time typically involved in session preparation. Implemented on typical desktop or laptop computers, the algorithms help to prevent the development of undesired stimulus control over the learner’s responding by position, recent trial outcomes, and other variables that could impede learning.

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