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UNC Genetics Lab Group


Under Dr. Piven’s direction, the UNC Genetics Lab Group is currently involved in two studies:
  1. North American Extended Family Study of Autism
  2. Neural Circuitry of Social Cognition in the Broad Autism Phenotype

North American Extended Family Study of Autism

The Autism Research Program of the UNC Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada work collaboratively on this project investigating the genetic basis of autism in extended families. This study looks at extended families in which autism and autistic characteristics seem to "run in the family".

Mission:
The purpose of the North American Extended Family Study of Autism or NAEFSA is to learn about the genes that make a person susceptible to autism, Asperger's syndrome, or ASD. Previous studies that have looked at the genes related to autism were done with large numbers of families who had one or two members with autism. This study is unique because we are looking at a smaller number of families who are related to each other and have three or more family members who have autism, Asperger's syndrome, or ASD. We hope that these families will help us to see more clearly the genes that are related to autism. Another unique aspect of this study is that it is federally funded in both the United States and in Canada. The National Institutes of Health have funded a five year project to be conducted through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led by Dr. Joseph Piven. In Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have funded an identical study headed by Dr. Peter Szatmari of McMaster University, at the Offord Centre for Child Studies. Our research teams have joined forces to create a larger data set from both countries that will allow us to more rapidly identify the autism susceptibility genes.

The Genetics Lab Group is currently looking for families who would be interested in working with our teams to help tackle some of the mysteries surrounding the genetics of autism (extended families include: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents). If you might be interested in this study or you know someone who might be interested, please contact us.

Study website (includes list of members): http://www.ndrc.unc.edu/familystudy/index.htm

Neural Circuitry of Social Cognition in the Broad Autism Phenotype

The purpose of this research study is to look at parents of individuals with autism and the parents of typically developing children to see how areas of their brains react when they are doing tasks that are related to processing social information. Researchers look at each person’s brain by having them do the tasks while they are in a scanner called an MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging Chamber. The MRI takes pictures of the brain using strong magnetic fields and radio waves. The lab group is interested in seeing how different personality or language characteristics in parents of individuals with autism may affect how their brains process social information.

The Genetics Lab Group is looking for individuals with Autism to participate in this study. If you might be interested in this study or you know someone who might be interested, please contact us.

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