NIH grant funds a new study of infants at higher risk for ADHD and ASD

In the U.S., about 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and approximately 5-8% of children are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Previous studies show that younger siblings of children with ASD or ADHD have higher risks for both disorders.

The study looks at at-risk kids to better understand the early indicators of ASD and ADHD. The study looks at at-risk kids to better understand the early indicators of ASD and ADHD.

Meghan Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and UC Davis MIND Institute, was awarded a $3.65 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to fund her “Learning about Autism and ADHD Markers in Babies” (LAAMB) study.

“We are thrilled that this grant will help support our work in investigating early signs of social communication and self-regulation difficulties among infants at risk,” Miller said. “Through this study, we hope to develop a better understanding of early indicators of ASD and ADHD.”

The LAAMB study will focus on infant siblings of typically developing children and on infants with at least one older sibling diagnosed with ADHD or ASD. Researchers will follow the development of the infants between 6 and 36 months of age and monitor their attention skills, emotion regulation, self-control, and social and communication skills. Their assessments include eye tracking, physiological regulation (e.g., heart rate) measurements and interactive play tasks.

“By learning more about the links between self-regulation and social communication problems during early development, we hope to help improve early detection of ASD and ADHD,” Miller said.

Findings from the study may also help inform the development of interventions for infants and toddlers at risk of ADHD or ASD.

Co-investigators on the project include Greg Young (UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, MIND Institute), Ana-Maria Iosif (UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences) and Erica Musser at Florida International University (Department of Psychology).

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