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Past Projects Supported by the Human Facilities

Measuring Behavioral Outcomes in Children Exposed to Prenatal Methylmercury

The Behavioral Facility Core has been instrumental in assisting in the measurement of specific aspects of cognitive function in children in the Seychelles who are participants in studies of the long-term effects of fish consumption which includes both the potential for exposures to contaminants such as mercury, but also beneficial exposures to proteins such as omega fatty acids. The Core has implemented tests of learning/planning (Stockings of Cambridge, Intra Extra-Dimensional Shift Set, paired associates learning) attention (rapid visual processing, reaction time) and memory (delayed matching to sample, spatial recognition memory) using CANTAB software (Cambridge Cognition) administered via laptop and touch screen to children as young as 5-6 years of age in these studies. (Davidson et al., 2011).

Language Learning Strategies for Children with Autism

The Human Behavioral Facility is currently working with Dr. Tristram Smith of the URMC Department of Pediatrics, as well as his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, in their randomized clinical trial comparing a standard behavioral intervention with an interpersonal, developmental intervention for teaching language skills to young children with autism. Through appointments with participating families at the Human Behavioral Facility URMC assessment suite or at participants’ local preschools, facility personnel are collecting standardized study data to characterize participants (e.g., confirming autism diagnosis through administration of the Autism Diagnostic Interview and Observation Schedule, assessing IQ adaptive behavior) and evaluating outcome on a range of other behavioral and cognitive measures. Through regularly scheduled participation in study team meetings, facility personnel coordinate with Dr. Smith and colleagues to ensure that the highest standards of scientific control are maintained throughout the study (e.g., blinding procedures, rigorous adherence to protocol). Results of this study should be available in 2014.