Computational, Systems and Developmental Neuroscience

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Autism spectrum disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental in origin. We are trying to understand more about ASDs through several parallel approaches.

  • Zebrafish autism mutants. We are examining how the development of behavior and neural circuits are altered in zebrafish mutant for genes that in humans are associated with ASDs. In this recent paper in The Journal of Neuroscience we showed that zebrafish fmr1 mutants, a gene which when mutated in humans causes Fragile X Syndrome, show sensory defensiveness, altered hunting and social behavior, and altered patterns of neural activity.
  • Machine learning analysis of motor behavior in human infants. In collaboration with Natasha Marrus we are using recently-developed techniques for automated human pose extraction from video data, combined with advanced machine learning techniques, to understand how behavioral phenotypes are altered in human infants subseqently diagnosed with autism.
  • Computational modeling of neural circuits. By incorporating into neural network models the changes in excitatory-inhibitory balance that are believed to underly autism, we are trying to understand the changes that autism induces at the level of circuit computations.