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Introducing the Social and Affective Neuroscience of Autism (SANA) Lab at Yale

December 20, 2023
by Katarzyna Chawarska

Inaugural SANA Blog Post

In this inaugural blog post by Social and Affective Neuroscience of Autism (SANA) Program Director Kasia Chawarska, PhD, two studies are featured that are actively recruiting infants and young children. In next month's post, look for some self care tips and strategies to help cope with the stresses that often accompany the joys of parenting.

The Social and Affective Neuroscience of Autism (SANA) lab focuses on early social and affective development of children with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. We aim to discover biomarkers of social and emotional vulnerabilities and novel treatment targets in infancy and early childhood. Our highly interdisciplinary and collaborative research relies on integration of cutting edge clinical behavioral, neurophysiological, and imaging data in service of improving the lives of children living with complex developmental disorders. The blog will highlight our research, staff, and resources, including self-care strategies and tips by our expert clinicians.

Infant Emotional Development Study

This study of emotional development will help us develop better methods for early diagnosis and intervention for behavioral and emotional challenges. It addresses an understudied yet important area by examining emotional vulnerabilities amongst infants with a family history of autism and evaluating their contribution to later emotional and behavioral difficulties.

We are recruiting infants 4 months of age or younger with or without a family history of autism (e.g., siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, or cousins). Participation will include fun and family-friendly follow-up visits through 30 months of age and include assessment of social, adaptive, cognitive, and language development; studies of attention involving watching brief videos; and play-based activities to assess your child’s emotional development.

Complex NeuroDevelopmental Conditions

This study focuses on the development of repetitive movements. The study will help us better understand the causes and developmental course of repetitive behavior in children. These typically consist of rhythmic movements that do not appear to serve a specific purpose, and may include flapping, posturing, waving, rotating, or tensing of body parts. Repetitive movements are frequently observed in autism, developmental delays, ADHD, anxiety, and other conditions; they have also been reported in children otherwise developing typically. For some, repetitive movements begin to manifest in infancy; for others, they emerge during the first years and tend to persist throughout childhood and adolescence.

We are recruiting children 4 years of age and younger with repetitive motor behavior, either typically developing or with autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD. Participation will include a visit to the lab where your child will have a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, assessment of repetitive behavior, studies of attention, and collection of saliva samples to learn more about genetic factors involved in repetitive behavior.

Submitted by Gitta Selva on December 20, 2023