Skip to Main Content

Denis Sukhodolsky, PhD

Associate Professor in the Child Study Center

Research Summary

Denis Sukhodolsky is an Associate Professor in the Yale Child Study Center. His research concerns the efficacy and biomarkers of behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder, irritability, and related neurodevelopmental disorders. This work has been supported by grants from NIMH, NICHD, DoD CDMRP, and Simons Foundation. Currently, he is a principal investigator of clinical trials of behavior therapy for anxiety in school-age children with autism and another clinical trial of behavior therapy for irritability and aggressive behavior in adolescents with autism. He is also a Yale site PI of the ACE network study of gender differences and neural signatures of optimal outcomes in ASD during adolescence and young adulthood. In addition to his research, Dr. Sukhodolsky is a licensed and board-certified clinical psychologist working with children and their families at the Yale Child Study Center.

Extensive Research Description

Behavior therapy for irritability and aggression in adolescents with autism (AR190136). This clinical trial will test the effectiveness of a novel behavioral intervention for irritability and aggression (BTIA) in adolescents with autism complicated by disruptive behaviors such as anger outbursts and low frustration tolerance. BTIA consists of 15 ninety-minute weekly sessions that are conducted with the teens and their parents by experienced therapists. The goal of BTIA is to help adolescents on the autism spectrum acquire emotion regulation and problem-solving strategies for managing frustration. Funded by the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, this 4-year clinical trial will enroll 126 participants in the age range from 12 to 18 years with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and co-occurring behavioral difficulties. Study participants are randomly assigned to BTIA or a supportive psychotherapy control condition and outcome measures are conducted before, during and after treatment by a blinded rater.

Neural mechanisms of CBT for anxiety in autism (R01 HD083881). This is a randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) versus Psychological education and Supportive Therapy (PST) for anxiety in children, ages 8 to 14, with autism and moderate to severe anxiety. The study utilizes fMRI to identify CBT-invoked changes in levels of activity/functional connectivity within the neural circuits involved in emotion regulation and social perception.

Translating neuroprediction into precision medicine via brain priming (SFARI # 514534). This is a randomized controlled trial of Pivotal Response Training (PRT) with or without intranasal oxytocin in 5-to-9-year-old children on the autism spectrum. The study tests if oxytocin can create a neural background for individuals with ASD that can bolster their motivation to interact socially and facilitate their biological preparedness for learning social communication skills during behavioral treatments.

Multimodal developmental neurogenetics of females with ASD (R01 MH100028). This is a multi-site, longitudinal study of sex differences in ASD at the levels of gene structure and expression, neural dynamics, brain function and connectivity. The ACE network has curated an unprecedented sex-balanced, age-, IQ- and severity-matched cohort of cognitively-able school-age boys and girls with ASD, and age- and IQ-matched typically developing children and unaffected siblings. The second five-year period of this ACE network study is conducted to understand neurodevelopmental sex differences in ASD during transition to adulthood.


Coauthors

Research Interests

Aggression; Anger; Autistic Disorder; Behavior Therapy; Tourette Syndrome; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Psychotherapy; Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Selected Publications

Clinical Trials

ConditionsStudy Title
Children's Health; Men's Health; Mental Health & Behavioral Research; Women's HealthACE Multisite Study of Adolescent & Adult Transitions
Children's HealthA Short-Term Longitudinal Study of the Brain Mechanisms of Childhood Irritability
Child Development & Autism; Children's Health; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchCBT for Anxiety in Children With Autism
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchNeurofeedback for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Child Development & Autism; Genetics - Adult; Genetics - Pediatric; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchPivotal Response Treatment for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders (PRT)