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Fred Volkmar, MD

Irving B. Harris Professor Emeritus in the Child Study Center

Research Summary

Our research focuses on neurobiology and treatment of autism and related disorders in individuals of all ages (infants through adults). We are interested in mechanisms (brain and genetics) as well as treatment.

Specialized Terms: Autism and related disorders; Asperger's disorder; Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD); Social development; Diagnosis; Neuropsychology

Extensive Research Description

Our research has focused on understanding some aspects of the fundamental nature of autism. In particular we are attempting to understand the nature of the social difficulties (autism) that are at the heart of autism and how these relate to the seemingly paradoxical oversensitivity to the nonsocial environment (unusual sensitivities and interests, difficulties with change and novelty). Given the wide range of expression in autism and related disorders we study various groups (from babies to adults, from very cognitively impaired to very cognitively able individuals). We also employ a range of methods including eye tracking, functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging, and genetic approaches among others. Our work has shown fundamental differences in the way individuals with autism process social interaction. Using innovative experimental approaches we have now extended this work to infants and younger children using visual and auditory tasks. We have recently undertaken a major prospective study of infants at risk for autism in an attempt to better understand how the disorder is manifest early in development. A long standing interest has been in developing better guidelines to diagnosis of autism and related conditions (we were the main coordinators of the DSM-IV field trial for autism). We have also been very interested in developing new methods to screen for and diagnose autism in the first months of life.
  • Prospective study of infants at risk for autism
  • Follow-up studies of autism
  • Treatment studies
  • Extending outreach to communities/families


Research Interests

Autistic Disorder; Child Psychiatry; Neuropsychology; Asperger Syndrome; Psychiatry and Psychology

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Selected Publications

Clinical Trials

ConditionsStudy Title
Child Development & Autism; Children's Health; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchAnger Control Training for Youth With Tourette Syndrome
Child Development & Autism; Diseases of the Nervous System; Genetics - Adult; Genetics - Pediatric; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchGenetic and molecular studies of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders