Mapping dynamic trajectories of development in autism spectrum disorder: gaining new insights into aetiology and heterogeneity


  • Dr Virginia Carter Leno

Project summary

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised by difficulties in social communication, repetitive behaviours and restrictive interests. The presentation of ASD can vary enormously from person to person, with variation in the types of symptoms they may display, their intellectual ability, and any additional psychiatric symptoms.

I will combine statistical models with sensitive measurements of brain functioning, to better map the links between brain functioning, cognition and behaviour in people with ASD across the lifespan. I will model pathways of early brain development in infants who are likely to have ASD and map these trajectories of brain development onto later cognitive functioning and ASD symptoms in toddlerhood. I will also delineate the directional pathways between brain functioning, cognition and behavioural symptoms in people with an established diagnosis of ASD.

Increased understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that underpin the symptoms of ASD may help to identify new targets for interventions.