MSI PIs Lead Grants for Better Diagnosis of Autism


Two MSI PIs are co-leaders on two National Institutes of Health grants awarded to fund projects that aim to develop better ways to diagnose autism in children. Both grants were announced in late May.

The first grant, for $3.7 million across five years, will use data collected from scans of young children’s brains to develop profiles that may help experts determine whether a child will develop autism spectrum disorder or related conditions. The co-leaders of this grant are MSI PIs Jed Elison  (associate professor, Institute of Child Development) and Suma Jacob (associate professor, Psychiatry). The grant includes researchers from the College of Education and Human Development’s Institute of Child Development, Department of Educational Psychology, and Institute on Community Integration; the Medical School’s Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry; the College of Liberal Arts; and the College of Science and Engineering.

The second grant, for $9.5 million, was awarded to the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network, and funds a project to develop a clinical MRI test for children at high risk for autism, with the hope of being able to diagnose the condition prior to age one. The University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are data-collection sites for this grant, which is being led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Professor Elison will co-lead the Minnesota-based portion of the project along with Assistant Professor Jason Wolff (Educational Psychology).

Professor Elison uses MSI for MRI studies of infants’ brains and behavior development. Professor Jacob studies the brain mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders and uses MSI resources for analysis of brain scans.