Two researchers at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research will head an ambitious new project to study the origins of autism and dyslexia, supported by an $8.5M grant from the Ellison Medical Foundation. The project leaders, Nancy Kanwisher and John Gabrieli, are prominent experts in neuroimaging and human brain development.
Human neuroimaging methods have advanced greatly over the last five years, and a major emphasis of the new project will be to translate these advances to pediatric neuroimaging. Brain imaging with young children presents many challenges, not least of which is their inability to lie still for long periods in the scanner. The McGovern investigators will collaborate with neuroimaging experts Larry Wald, Bruce Fischl and Ellen Grant at Massachusetts General Hospital, who will develop scanning coils designed specifically for children's heads, along with new procedures to shorten scan times and methods to analyze data from brains that are not yet fully developed.
"We expect these technological advances to radically improve pediatric neuroimaging and help us make major strides in understanding typical and atypical human brain development," said Kanwisher, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. Kanwisher, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, will lead the work on autism. Gabrieli, who is the Grover Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience, will lead the dyslexia component.