Child Studies & Autism

For over a decade, the Autism Program at NKI has been a community-collaborative effort to better understand neurodiversity while working to develop treatments that may be useful to some autistic individuals. 

Autistic individuals may have differences in sensory processing, the ways in which we understand and cognitively process our sensory world. 

To better understand these differences, our group has explored both primary visual and auditory processing as well as sensory sensitivity and sensory responsivity. 

We use non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to better understand the brain networks involved in sensory processing for not only autistic individuals but neurotypical individuals and those with diagnoses of obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. 

About 1 in 50 individuals in the United States has a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder.  For autistic individuals who may benefit from treatment, there are no approved therapeutics for core features of autism. 

Our autism clinical therapeutics program focuses on developing and advancing treatments.  We maintain a scientific focus on improving methodologies in clinical trials including investigating placebo response and developing refined symptom characterization batteries to better profile neurodiversity and detect clinical change.  In parallel, we have investigated novel pharmacological treatments across the lifespan.

Selected Publications

  • Tobe R, Zhu Y, Gleissl T, Rossomanno S, Veenstra-VanderWeele J, Smith J, Hollander E. Predictors of placebo response in three large clinical trials of the V1a receptor antagonist balovaptan in autism spectrum disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2023 Jul;48(8):1201-1216. doi: 10.1038/s41386-023-01573-9. Epub 2023 Apr 12. PMID: 37045991; PMCID: PMC10267133.
  • Ou J, Smith RC, Tobe RH, Lin J, Arriaza J, Fahey JW, Liu R, Zeng Y, Liu Y, Huang L, Shen Y, Li Y, Cheng D, Cornblatt B, Davis JM, Zhao J, Wu R, Jin H. Efficacy of Sulforaphane in Treatment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Multi-center Trial. J Autism Dev Disord. 2022 Nov 24. doi: 10.1007/s10803-022-05784-9. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36427174.
  • Hollander E, Jacob S, Jou R, McNamara N, Sikich L, Tobe R, Smith J, Sanders K, Squassante L, Murtagh L, Gleissl T, Wandel C, Veenstra-VanderWeele J. Balovaptan vs Placebo for Social Communication in Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2022 Aug 1;79(8):760-769. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.1717. PMID: 35793101; PMCID: PMC9260643.
  • Jacob S, Anagnostou E, Hollander E, Jou R, McNamara N, Sikich L, Tobe R, Murphy D, McCracken J, Ashford E, Chatham C, Clinch S, Smith J, Sanders K, Murtagh L, Noeldeke J, Veenstra-VanderWeele J. Large multicenter randomized trials in autism: key insights gained from the balovaptan clinical development program. Mol Autism. 2022 Jun 11;13(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13229-022-00505-6. PMID: 35690870; PMCID: PMC9188723.
  • Martínez A, Tobe RH, Gaspar PA, Malinsky D, Dias EC, Sehatpour P, Lakatos P, Patel GH, Bermudez DH, Silipo G, Javitt DC. Disease-Specific Contribution of Pulvinar Dysfunction to Impaired Emotion Recognition in Schizophrenia. Front Behav Neurosci. 2022 Feb 14;15:787383. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.787383. PMID: 35237135; PMCID: PMC8883821.
  • Wild H, Tobe RH. Oral Contraceptives Reduced Pica Behavior in a Female with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2019 Dec;29(10):787. doi: 10.1089/cap.2019.0094. Epub 2019 Jul 24. PMID: 31339747.
  • Martínez A, Tobe R, Dias EC, Ardekani BA, Veenstra-VanderWeele J, Patel G, Breland M, Lieval A, Silipo G, Javitt DC. Differential Patterns of Visual Sensory Alteration Underlying Face Emotion Recognition Impairment and Motion Perception Deficits in Schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2019 Oct 1;86(7):557-567. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.05.016. Epub 2019 May 29. PMID: 31301757; PMCID: PMC7197738.
  • Ness SL, Bangerter A, Manyakov NV, Lewin D, Boice M, Skalkin A, Jagannatha S, Chatterjee M, Dawson G, Goodwin MS, Hendren R, Leventhal B, Shic F, Frazier JA, Janvier Y, King BH, Miller JS, Smith CJ, Tobe RH, Pandina G. An Observational Study With the Janssen Autism Knowledge Engine (JAKE®) in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Front Neurosci. 2019 Feb 27;13:111. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00111. PMID: 30872988; PMCID: PMC6402449.
  • Tobe RH, Corcoran CM, Breland M, MacKay-Brandt A, Klim C, Colcombe SJ, Leventhal BL, Javitt DC. Differential profiles in auditory social cognition deficits between adults with autism and schizophrenia spectrum disorders: A preliminary analysis. J Psychiatr Res. 2016 Aug;79:21-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.04.005. Epub 2016 Apr 16. PMID: 27131617; PMCID: PMC7314624.