Autism research at Princeton University
Funded by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute Innovation Fund and the Simons Foundation (SFARI Explorer Award).
Sex differences in the brain in autism
Females with autism have been extremely understudied, in part because the syndrome was first characterized in males. Brain imaging studies world-wide have scanned many more males than females, so we know less about the female autistic brain. It is also less well known how autism manifests in females compared to males. In 2017, I analyzed brain imaging data from several hundred children to study possible sex differences in the brain connectome. Specifically, I studied the organization and connectivity of the inferior parietal cortex and temporoparietal junction, which has been a focus of my research for the last years (see TPJ page). I did this work in the lab of Prof. Michael Graziano at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University as my final stage of my postdoctoral work.
Listening to people with autism
I generally focus on brain imaging and neuropsychology and plan to continue with that in the future. However, alongside these studies, I have launched Extraordinary Brains, a project aimed at direct communication with autistic people and outreach activities. Autistic people have often spent years thinking about what it means to live with autism, and therefore have a lot to contribute. In 2017, we ran formal studies using online questionnaires (paper in preparation). After moving to Sweden to start my own lab, the focus has moved to a more informal question-and-answer dialog. We collect information directly from people with ADHD and/or autism diagnoses, and summarize the answers on the project's blog. The blog is also used to discuss different topics, and regularly features guest writers. The work of the Extraordinary Brains team has been reported on in popular media and is under rapid expansion.