Lifeline Online Spring 2009 Issue 102
IN THE NEWS
A story in the Boston Globe about how we are learning more about the brains of babies quoted LSI Director John Colombo. Read the full story.
When U.S. News and World Report needed an expert for a story on the employability of teenagers with autism, they turned to LSI’s Wendy Parent. Read the full story.
RESEARCH IN ACTION
Judy Carta and Charles Greenwood, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, are collaborating with colleagues in Australia on the use of a website measurement tool developed by JGCP researchers. Read the full story.
LSI at Parsons helped organize an electronic recycling event for residents of a five-county area that saved tons of stuff from going to landfills. Read the full story.
LSI centers may now have their own “signatures” for stationery, websites and print materials. Read the full story.
Two former KU doctoral students who worked with LSI-affiliated scientists received top honors at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children. Read the full story.
Long-time Parsons Jill-of-all Trades Pat White was among the recent retirees honored by KU. Read the full story.
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT NEWS
Six recent awards and 52 proposals submitted in the last few months explain, in part, why LSI researchers and central office staff have been burning the midnight oil. See the complete list.
Anderson and Colombo find pupil size larger in children with autism
The screen of the device used to
Using only pupil size, researchers were able to correctly identify which children from a group of 22 had ASD with 71 percent accuracy. The researchers believe that pupil size might be used to identify children with ASD earlier than the typical 3 years of age.
In response to a stimulus, pupil size increases (dilation) or decreases (constriction) as a result of brightness, arousal, or cognitive demand. These moment-to-moment changes are called “phasic” changes.
In this study, however, Anderson and Colombo found that the resting, or “tonic” pupil size was bigger in children with ASD. Tonic pupil size is held constant by inputs from several neural systems at the level of the brainstem, the part of the brain that controls involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate and respiration.
“The fact that children with ASD have larger tonic pupil size indicates an imbalance in these systems, and further suggests that the disorder might have its origins in these lower-order brain systems,” Colombo said.
Researchers have reported that people with ASD have notable differences in heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, sleep and other ANS functioning having a neurochemical or structural basis. The Anderson and Colomobo study adds atypical pupil response to this description of ASD.
In an earlier study, Colombo and Anderson found that the pupils of children with ASD reacted differently to pictures of faces, showing less “phasic” responsiveness than typical children.
Colombo said that studies like this serve two purposes. “In addition to providing us with the potential for early identification and diagnosis, they provide important clues to the nature of the disorder. This kind of information is critical to understanding what causes the disorder, and perhaps how to prevent it.”
A Barlow assistant using the NTrainer
Establishing the new scientific society at KU recognizes Barlow’s leadership in this maturing area of neuroscience, said John Colombo, LSI director. Barlow anticipates an annual meeting and scientific journal established at KU around oromotor development in premature infants. This can, in turn, attract graduate students and funding to the field to speed discovery Colombo pointed out.
Barlow’s NTrainer system is the first medical device developed at the Lawrence campus and produced in Kansas. KCBiomedix, located in Shawnee, will ship the first FDA-approved devices to hospitals on July 1. The system has been shown to rapidly train very young preterm infants and other babies with feeding problems (such as infants with Respiratory Distress Syndrome) how to feed. As the device trains the infant’s suck mechanism it also assesses its oromotor development. No other device on the market can do this. Barlow and colleagues believe that overcoming early oromotor system problems can prevent injuries and delays in higher neurological systems such as those
Barlow’s current 5-year NIH grant is getting started at Overland Park Regional and Stormont-Vail Healthcare (Topeka) neonatal intensive care units. This time Barlow hopes to show that NTrainer treatment can change the course of development for premature infants.
Broken pieces of concrete and shifted earth in
The new three-story 72,000 square foot facility on 3.5 acres will house LSI’s Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, KUMC’s Project Eagle, and the Family Conservancy. The official groundbreaking took place in October with a targeted completion date of April 2010.
The Children’s Campus will encompass community programs serving families and children in Wyandotte County and represents a cooperative venture of several public agencies and private programs.
Friends of LSI celebrate Fifth Anniversary
Marianna Beach and Ann Turnbull at the Friends Dinner
Director John Colombo acted as MC for the second time, this time as the permanent LSI director, a position he accepted on September 29. He noted that although the general economic picture is unstable, the LSI had one of its best years ever, winning 26 new grants and attracting 9 new investigators as affiliates in 2008-09.
Among the highlights of the 2008-09 year was the groundbreaking of the Children’s Campus of Wyandotte County in Kansas City, Kan. on Oct. 7. The Children’s Campus is a realization of a decades-long dream made possible by the dedication of many private and public supporters and KU research collaborators Martha Staker, Charles Greenwood and their staffs (see above). The center will support the health and well-being of more than 1,200 children and families annually in Kansas City, Kan.
Life Span’s newest center, the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, became official last July and by March 24 had opened an Autism Resource Center at the KU Edwards Campus that provides a public resource, meeting and training center for area families who have members with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as educators and practitioners. This was made possible in no small measure by several private gifts, notably that from the Kansas City Young Matrons.
Colombo also introduced the Friends Graduate Research Award winners Audra Sterling and Daniel Schober (see story on their research) and recognized Ed Zamarripa’s 40 years of service. He also called the LSI grant preparation team members, Paul Diedrich, Jessica Black-Magnussen and Carolyn Thompson, “the best in the world” for doubling their already hectic workload since April 17 in response to the short deadlines of the Obama administration’s Economic Stimulus Grants.
The evening’s featured attraction was a presentation by David Ekerdt on the subject of his new National Institute on Aging grant on household disbandment or downsizing in older age, the Household Moves Project. Ekerdt, director of LSI’s Gerontology Center, was compelling as well as entertaining in explaining how the inability to dispose of our stuff as we age can have serious consequences if it prevents us from moving to more appropriate housing, being healthy or having social connections.