Group of adolescents
By School of Behavioral Health - February 22, 2022

Assistant Professor Aarti Nair, PhD's projects at the Neurodevelopmental Applied Imaging Intervention Research Lab (NAIIR Lab) focus on examining neural mechanisms underlying treatment outcomes for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Currently, the lab is running a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded study exploring the shared and distinct neural underpinnings of social cognition difficulties in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder (SSD). SSD and ASD are heterogeneous conditions that share several overlapping genotypic and phenotypic features such as social impairments. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of these social impairments observed in these disorders has not yet been fully examined.

Exploring the shared and distinct neural underpinnings in ASD and SSD could advance our understanding of social cognition deficits across disorders, which will ultimately inform treatment. Although antipsychotics have been shown to be effective in reducing positive symptoms in SSD, they are not effective in addressing the devastating social disability associated with the disorder, which contributes to chronic functional impairment. By enhancing our understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of social impairments in adolescent onset SSD and how they compare to those observed in ASD, we will be able to refine treatment targets and better predict outcomes for each group.​ The proposed study takes a novel and innovative approach to further our understanding of the complex pathogenesis of social cognition difficulties in these highly impairing developmental neuropsychiatric disorders.

The study involves behavioral and neuroimaging assessments of adolescents, ages 12-21, with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder (SSD). Selected participants will be invited to undergo the caregiver-assisted PEERS® 16-week social skills training. The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®) is world-renowned for providing evidence-based social skills treatment to preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems. The study will also recruit typically developing adolescents to undergo assessments and brain scans. All participants will be paid for involvement in assessments and brain scans.

If you are interested in participating in this study, contact the NAIIR Lab via their website or by phone at 909-494-2495.

This study was approved by LLUH IRB (#5200189) on 9/3/21 and 3/29/22.

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