Skip to Main Content

Welcome to the McPartland Lab

Lab Overview

The McPartland lab investigates autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from a clinical neuroscience perspective. Clinical work informs our understanding of the behavioral phenotype and helps us appreciate what is relevant from the perspective of individuals with ASD and their families. Guided by these clinical insights, we apply the methods of neuroscience to elucidate the brain systems underlying the unique strengths and vulnerabilities seen in people on the spectrum.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Children with ASD are born with brains that process information differently. As they develop, these differences shape attention and social interactions to further influence neural specialization. This cycle, when left unchecked, leads to lost opportunities for learning; however, recognized and treated, this process of developmental specialization offers hope for improvement of impacted brain systems.

What We Study

The lab’s work is empirical but is tied tightly to a theoretical framework, the social motivation hypothesis, proposing that early occurring difficulties in social drive, social perception, or social anxiety interfere with the typical levels of interpersonal engagement and derail social development. We seek to improve the methods of neuroscience by developing novel and more realistic ways to measure social brain function and associated behavior. By more closely approximating true social interactions, our research will be better positioned to shed light on the actual challenges experienced by people with ASD. We aim to translate our research directly into clinical applications supporting earlier detection of children with ASD and more effective treatments that are informed by neuroscience. We believe that the interweaving of our roles as scientists and clinical practitioners enables us to conduct more responsible science and to communicate these insights directly to stakeholders in clinical settings. The objective of our work is to improve the lives of individuals with ASD and their families.

Research and Clinical Services

Participate in Research

You can play an important role in research by volunteering for one of our free and confidential studies. We are seeking individuals between the ages of 6 and 40 years old with either autism spectrum disorder or typically developing children and adults. We are currently offering studies to help understand brain activity using methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) and eye tracking (ET), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), positron emission tomography (PET), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Participants will receive a clinical evaluation and compensation.

For more information about eligibility and enrollment in our research, please contact Erin MacDonnell at 203.737.3439 or

The Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic builds on decades of experience in research and clinical services for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. The clinic provides comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluations, educational advocacy services, and college planning consultations. The clinic team is committed to supporting families with children, adolescents, and adults with autism and related disorders.

For information about clinical services or to schedule an appointment, please contact Bela Ponjevic at 203.785.3420 or

Interested in joining our team?

The McPartland lab offers fellowship positions for both post-graduate and post-doctoral candidates with an interest in cognitive neuroscience and clinical research in autism. To learn more about these opportunities and how to apply, please contact