Setting kids up for success early

Jed ElisonJed Elison, Ph.D., a faculty member in the U’s Institute of Child Development and Department of Pediatrics, is dedicated to finding ways to detect and address neurodevelopmental disabilities as early as possible.

His team is interested in a process called attentional orienting, or how one’s attention flexibly and efficiently moves in space, and its role in early cognitive and social development. Today, they are using a sophisticated, non-invasive eye tracking method to better understand this process and identify children who are at higher risk of developing autism.

Elison’s lab has also launched a major study called the Baby Connectome Project. His team is partnering with the U’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research to collect and analyze brain scans from more than 500 children aged zero to five years to understand how differences in brain structure and function influence cognitive and social development.

This study is unprecedented, says Elison, “because we are acquiring exceptionally high-quality brain imaging data on infants and toddlers and densely sampling the period of time when the most dynamic brain development happens.”

The project could be especially valuable in addressing autism, he continues, because “it will leverage brain imaging technology to identify children who are at the highest risk for developing autism and lead to interventions before behavioral signs emerge, perhaps preventing autism as we know it.”

Click here to learn more about Elison’s research.

“This work requires investment from all types of stakeholders, from philanthropists to families. The U and the broader community of engaged citizens in Minnesota have created a context for ushering in new discoveries that promise to enhance the health and wellbeing of our children.”

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