CE Workshop #9: Autism: Clinical and Translational Insights from Brain Mapping

Rajesh K. Kana, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Rajesh K. Kana, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Rajesh K. Kana, PhD Abstract & Learning Objectives: Although a biological origin for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been proposed several decades ago, a firm and reliable neurobiological marker has rather been elusive. Of late, neuroimaging studies have provided converging findings on disruptions in brain connectivity as a common signature in the pathobiology of autism. Work from our group has tried to address two important questions, First about the diagnostic utility of neuroimaging-based markers of autism; and Second, about the efficacy of intervention programs in changing the brain circuitry underlying impaired functions in children with autism. Our findings reveal that brain abnormalities in autism spans multiple levels of organization, such as function, anatomy, connectivity, and chemical concentration. The use of multimodal neuroimaging may provide an avenue to assess these indices and generate a comprehensive explanation of this disorder. Some of our studies used machine learning techniques to understand abnormalities in which of these indices best predict autism. In testing the impact of an intense language intervention on children with autism who have below average reading comprehension, we found significant changes in brain connectivity of the reading network as a result of intervention. These findings provide significant insights and promising new directions in moving neuroscience research closer to clinic. Upon conclusion of this course, learners will be able to: Assess the state of brain research, particularly neuroimaging-based research, in autism spectrum disorders Analyze the preliminary steps in exploring the translational potential of neuroimaging research in autism Discuss brain plasticity and the potential of intense interventions in changing the brain circuitry in children with autism Assess the distance between laboratory and clinic in neuroscience research and learn about the attempts to bridge this gap Speaker Biography: Rajesh Kana is an Associate Professor in the department of Psychology at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Kana’s research is focused on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying social and cognitive processes in autism spectrum disorders; and to design and test the effect of intervention programs for children with autism. He uses advanced neuroimaging techniques, such as functional MRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to understand the neurobiology of autism. Dr. Kana is one of the researchers proposing the disrupted brain connectivity account of autism. Dr. Kana obtained his Ph.D. in Humanities and Social Sciences from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi, India. He completed his postdoc training in neuroimaging from Carnegie Mellon University before joining UAB as an assistant professor in 2007. Dr. Kana has published extensively in the field of cognitive and social neuroscience in reputed peer-reviewed journals. He has also received several prestigious awards, such as the William Fulbright Fellowship, the McNulty-Civitan Scientist award, and the Cure Autism Now Foundation Young Investigator Award. Celebrating 50 Years-Binding the Past and Present