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Keynote:Using the Brain to Guide the Development of Interventions for Autism


In the past 25 years, key advances in the understanding of brain development have enhanced our knowledge of autism. Similarly, intervention research has improved the care and outcomes of many with autism. As we turn to the future, we reflect on how to better incorporate emerging brain research into the design and more rigorous evaluation of individualized interventions for people with autism. This presentation will explore some work already being done to synthesize these approaches. In particular, it will highlight: (1) how computer games might be used to enhance the executive function of children with autism; (2) how targeting a particular system involved in recognizing faces can change brain responses of adults, and (3) how biological measures may provide an alternative way to evaluate interventions and predict individual responses.

About the Presenter(s)

Susan Faja

Susan Faja

Dr. Susan Faja studied neuroscience before receiving her doctoral degree in child clinical psychology. Her clinical work at Boston Children’s Hospital focuses on the early diagnosis of children with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her research at the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School focuses on executive control, social cognition, and social perception and seeks to understand changes in underlying brain systems resulting from interventions using electrophysiological and behavioral measurements. This approach allows for exploration of the developmental processes that contribute to behavioral symptoms, investigation of how interventions work, and provides a platform for rigorously testing novel interventions. The Faja Lab is also interested in understanding why individuals with autism have such striking differences in their development. Understanding these individual differences will lead to better understanding of the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders and allow for treatments to be delivered with more precision and efficiency.