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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Kirstin Greaves-Lord 

 

Group head: Kirstin Greaves-Lord, PhD

  

‘Heterogeneity within the autism spectrum is perhaps the biggest obstacle to research at all levels’, Francesca Happé, 2006
 
To improve screening and diagnostics, as well as to properly investigate the neurobiology and treatment of autism spectrum disorder, it is imperative to further clarify the heterogeneity within autism spectrum disorder. Therefore, within our research group, we disentangle the autism spectrum phenotype in several ways. We use both diagnostic and dimensional multi-informant approaches for assessment, we investigate the interrelationships between the core problems and frequently co-occurring problems, and we examine the developmental course of all problems. Also, we relate the autism spectrum phenotype to several putative underlying mechanisms. Ultimately, our goal is to link phenotypic variability to variability in treatment outcome. All research is conducted within two RCT’s (ACCEPT and MOVING/FLOW) and two clinical cohort studies (GAME and the Social Spectrum Study).

 
GAME                                 
The ‘towards the Genetics of Autism spectrum disorders Measuring Endophenotypes’ study is a follow-up study of 246 children and their parents, who previously visited the Erasmus MC Sophia because of problems within the autism spectrum. At the first assessment wave (age 6-12) several behavioural and neuropsychological measures were assessed.  At the second assessment wave (age 12-18), all participants underwent a re-evaluation of their problems. In addition, visual attention to social/emotional stimuli was investigated by using eye-tracking technology, and physiological reactivity was assessed simultaneously. Currently, a third assessment wave is in preparation.

 

Social Spectrum Study
The Social Spectrum Study is a multicenter study of referrals to 6 participating centres. A first assessment wave took place in 2011. In a first stage, all referrals were screened using several dimensional questionnaires. In a second stage, all screen positives underwent gold standard diagnostic procedures, and phenotypic variation and familial factors were assessed through questionnaires. Currently, a third assessment wave is in preparation.