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Lab in Sweden

Supported by Stiftelsen Autism (Autism- och Aspergerförbundet, Sweden), The Medical Council of Southeast Sweden, the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)

Current research lines

On this page I describe my two major current research lines. My active collaborations are listed at the bottom of the page, and I will soon start to add links to descriptions of the projects we work on together. 
 

A role of the Cerebellum in neurodiversity? 

Cross-section of the cerebellum

Cross-section of the cerebellum

The cerebellum ("little brain") has very frequently been implicated in autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. Its structure is intricate, and it communicates with the whole rest of the brain. We know that the cerebellum is involved in coordination - when it's damaged our movements become less fluent and it can be difficult to walk normally. However, based on its connections, the cerebellum should be able to influence almost all of behavior, including attention, social function and other processes that can be difficult in autism and ADHD. Damage in adulthood can lead to a relatively mild condition called "cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome", but damage around the time of birth is one of the greatest risk factors for autism. At Linkoping University, I am planning to do high-resolution brain imaging together with the analytical methods I developed at Princeton University, to identify possible patterns in cerebellar connectivity in relation to behavioral strengths and difficulties. 
 

Diversity of strengths and challenges in autism and ADHD

Diversity is exciting if you visualize it in color!

Diversity is exciting if you visualize it in color!

Both autism and ADHD are associated with a large spectrum of strengths and difficulties. For clinical purposes, we currently need to lump people together into diagnostic categories - otherwise we would have few standards, studies or recommendations. But in my role as a brain researcher, the sheer variability between people within categories puts me in a seemingly impossible position. I find it difficult to understand the logic in expecting a group of highly heterogeneous neurotypical people to show consistent neural differences compared to a group of highly heterogeneous autistic people. Of course, this is what we've had to do in science, and the knowledge we gain is invaluable - but it's not satisfying to me. It makes me itch inside. Therefore, my second research line (tightly related to the cerebellar studies) will attempt to deal with neurodiversity. Ultimately, I believe that if we look closely at the heterogeneity itself, new information will eventually be revealed, and that could be revolutionary, even if it's decades away. I plan to use a very wide battery of psychophysics tests to characterize behavioral profiles in a cross-diagnostic way, all the way from severe deficits to brilliant skills. These experiments will be linked to brain imaging when possible. This is somewhat unchartered territory, and I haven't mapped out my path yet, but within the next years I hope that useful information starts to emerge. 

Active collaborations

  • Per Gustafsson, Professor Emeritus, Child- and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Sweden.
  • Laura Korhonen, Professor, Child- and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Sweden.
  • Ina Marteinsdottir, Senior Lecturer, Psychiatry, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Sweden.
  • Mathilda Björk, Professor, Occupational Therapy, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division of Occupational Therapy, Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, Sweden. 
  • Erika Högstedt, PhD candidate, Occupational Therapy, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division of Occupational Therapy, Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, Sweden. 
  • Robin Kämpe, Research Engineer,  Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Sweden.
  • Mark Pinsk, Senior Professional Specialist, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton NJ, USA. 
  • Sabine Kastner, Professor, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton NJ, USA. 
  • Michael Graziano, Professor, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton NJ, USA.