The Carolina Autism and Neurodevelopment Research Center at UofSC brings together
an interdisciplinary group of faculty from across campus to collaborate and advance
research in the fields of autism and neurodevelopment.
Dr. Jane Roberts, Psychology
Dr. Roberts is a Carolina Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of
Psychology. Her work focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms that underlie
cognitive and behavioral functioning in children and adults with neurodevelopmental
disorders such as autism, fragile X syndrome, and ADHD.
Dr. Twiss is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, SmartState Chair
in Childhood Neurotherapeutics, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies.
The Twiss lab uses molecular and cellular biology approaches to understand how neurons
develop and function. They are particularly interested in how post-transcriptional
regulation impacts neuron growth, focusing on subcellular mRNA translation and RNA
dynamics in neurons.
Dr. Bradshaw’s research focuses on early identification of autism spectrum disorder
(ASD) in the first years of life, including: 1) quantifying the emergence of, and
interrelations between, social behavior, visual attention, and motor skills in neonates,
infants, and toddlers, 2) identifying aberrant neurodevelopmental pathways that lead
to the emergence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and 3) translating these basic
findings to early detection and intervention strategies for ASD.
Dr. Drasgow's research interests include language and communication intervention for
individuals with severe disabilities, functional assessment and positive behavior
support, special education law, and teacher training and retention.
Dr. Sarah Edmunds is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and has
a joint appointment in the special education program within the Department of Educational
Studies. She is also a member of the RISE research network’s implementation science
team. Broadly, Dr. Edmunds' research investigates how we can best implement evidence-based
interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) within early intervention, school,
and mental healthcare systems, in ways that are tailored to each community and support
Dr. Hock is currently serving as principal investigator on a South Carolina Department
of Health and Human Services-funded award to study person-centered service design
in behavioral health organizations. The research will focus on how to more actively
engage patients in their care by developing and implementing an actionable plan to
assist in achieving personal recovery goals.
His research expertise includes person-centered design in behavioral health organizations,
treatment of autism spectrum disorder, and mental health of children and families.
Abigail Hogan, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Dr. Hogan's research focuses on social communication in autism spectrum disorder,
with an emphasis on factors that contribute to social communication development in
young autistic children. Dr. Hogan is especially interested in understanding the relationship
between anxiety symptoms and social communication difficulties in autistic children.
The Hollis lab uses behavioral and cellular biology approaches to investigate the
role of brain mitochondrial function in social behaviors relevant to neurodevelopmental
disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Dr. Klusek’s research program aims to delineate the nature and basis of communication
deficits in conditions associated with FMR1 gene dysfunction: fragile X syndrome and
the FMR1 premutation. Her research focuses on three primary areas: (1) defining communication
features and their interface with psychiatric and cognitive aspects of the phenotype;
(2) identifying biomarkers to inform mechanistic underpinnings, with a focus on autonomic
and molecular genetic markers; (3) addressing syndrome-specificity via the use of
a cross-population comparison approach that juxtaposes fragile X with autism-- disorders
of shared behaviors but distinct genetic etiologies.
Dr. Lizarraga is interested in understanding the basic mechanisms that contribute
to the development of the cerebral cortex, particularly how endosomal signaling and
epigenetic regulators contribute to the development of neuronal circuitry formation
during cortical development. Her work focuses on the role of these pathways in neuronal
arborization and synapse development and function and their relation to neurodevelopmental
disorders such as autism. Her work utilizes a combination of genome edited and patient
derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) as well as epigenetic, imaging and physiological
Dr. Mott’s research is directed toward understanding how synaptic transmission between
excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells in the brain is modified as a result of experience,
with a focus on neurons in the limbic system and the hippocampus. The hippocampus
plays important roles in learning and memory, as well as in pathological conditions,
such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. His current work investigates
changes in synaptic transmission that occur in the hippocampus in temporal lobe epilepsy.
Dr. Pocivavsek's research aims to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of
cognitive dysfunction. Poor sleep quality is associated with impairments in cognitive
function. Her research strives to unravel common molecular mechanisms between sleep
disturbances and cognitive impairments and introduce new therapeutic approaches to
alleviate these outcomes.
Dr. O'Reilly's main interests are related to better understanding the brain across
spatial and temporal scales in order to address complex neurodevelopmental issues
such as autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The methods he uses include
analytical techniques (e.g., EEG source reconstruction, functional connectivity) and
modeling (e.g., point neurons, morphologically-detailed neurons, neural masses), as
well as the combination of these two approaches through Bayesian model-driven analyses.
He is further interested in novel ways to empower the study of neuroscience through
AI and to empower AI through biologically inspired neural networks.
In humans, heterozygous mutations in LIS1 typically cause a severe developmental brain
abnormality, lissencephaly, in large part due to a critical role in regulating intracellular
trafficking. Recently, in conjunction with the Greenwood Genetics Center, we identified
a conservative mutation in LIS1 in a child diagnosed with autism. We are currently
trying to understand how this mutation impacts LIS1, focusing on potential dysfunction
in the axon.
Dr. Welshhans research focuses on understanding how appropriate connectivity within
the nervous system is established during development. Her research examines this process
both in health and disease, with a focus on Down syndrome. She is interested in the
mechanisms by which growth cones, which are the pathfinding structures of the developing
neuron, migrate to and connect with their appropriate targets. Her research employs
a wide variety of molecular, cellular and imaging techniques, including primary cell
culture, human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons, viral-mediated
gene expression, innovative fluorescent proteins and reporters, live cell imaging
and TIRF microscopy, to elucidate the mechanisms underlying neural development.
Katie Wolfe, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Dr. Wolfe's research interests include the development and implementation of interventions
to promote language and communication skills in young children with autism, the synthesis
of single-subject research to identify empirically-supported treatments, and the use
of technology in training individuals to analyze single-subject data. She is also
interested in parent and practitioner training.
As the research director of the Institute of Movement Studies for Individuals with Visual Impairments, Dr. Brian has traveled throughout the world assessing and evaluating the perceived
and actual motor competence, physical activity, and health-related fitness levels
of individuals with visual impairments in order to develop targeted intervention strategies.
Additionally, as an investigator with the Research Center for Child Well-Being, her research also focuses upon developing integrated (physical, psychological, and
cognitive) intervention strategies for rural, title one preschoolers and that features
the assistance of their parents and/or their classroom teachers.
Dr. Cai is an bioinformatician and his research focuses on the development and application
of bioinformatic, statistical and computational methods for analyzing genomic and
biomedical data to investigate complex human disease including Autism and Neurodevelopmental
Disorders. Specifically, his current research aims at developing efficient methods
for single-cell RNA-seq data analysis, multi-dimensional genomics data integration,
and marker identification and disease outcome prediction using machine learning methods.
Dr. Frizzell is interested in the chemical modification of proteins by mitochondrial
metabolites, and understanding the conditions that govern metabolite reactivity. She
has a particular focus on the succination of proteins by the Krebs cycle intermediate
fumarate. Her lab is investigating the role of fumarate and protein succination in
mitochondrial encephalopathies derived from defects in the electron transport chain
machinery, describing for the first time how metabolic alterations lead to increased
brainstem and olfactory bulb succination in a murine model of Leigh Syndrome. They
are currently examining several protein targets whose structure and function is altered
as a consequence of succination. This has informed new avenues of therapeutic intervention
that they anticipate will benefit Leigh Syndrome patients.
Dr. Hikmet is heavily involved in research and health sector related activities. He
has led numerous distributed data collection and management projects and led and participated
in grant-funded health informatics research in a wide range of contexts. His recent
research project Health Services Utilization Dashboard leverages Health Sciences South Carolina’s (HSSC) 2.7 million patient based clinical
data set which provides insightful information.
Dr. Hills provides clinical training in ASD assessment skills to clinicians across
the state of South Carolina. Her current research interests focus on autism diagnosis,
psychological assessment, prevention and intervention for at-risk youth and positive
Dr. Huang’s longstanding research endeavor is studying effects of measurement error
on statistical inference and developing nonparametric methods for mean regression,
mode regression, and density estimation in the presence or absence of measurement
Dr. Lu is well-known nationally and internationally for his research work on large
information networks, sparse random graphs, probabilistic methods, extremal problems
on hypergraphs and posets, spectral graph/hypergraph theory, Ramsey type problems,
Discrete Geometry, and other problems in graph theory.
Dr. Moore’s research and teaching interests include determining the functional outcomes
of concussive injuries and the factors that moderate injusry outcomes, the active
rehabilitation of post-concussion syndrome, and the influennce of health factors such
as physical activity, fitness, and obesity on neuropsychological health and development.
Research in the Poulain lab aims at understanding how neuronal circuits are formed,
maintained and refined during development. We use a unique combination of genetic,
biochemical and high resolution live imaging approaches in zebrafish to decipher the
cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain wiring directly in vivo. Our discoveries
may give new insight on the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders that originate
from miswiring of neuronal circuits during development.
John Richards, Ph.D., Carolina Distinguished Professor
Dr. Richards has three related research themes. The first theme is the development
of sustained attention in young infants. The second theme is the development of extended
fixations to television programs in the first two years. Third, Dr. Richards uses
EEG and ERP in the study of saccade planning, its development in the first few months
of infancy, and its relation to cortical areas controlling eye movements. He also
is using structural MRI of infants along with ERP to study the cortical sources of
the behavior associated with planned eye movements.
Dr. Stodden's research agenda focuses on promoting the acquisition and development
of fundamental motor skills and the association of motor skill competence with physical
activity, health-related physical fitness, perceived competence, and obesity across
the lifespan. His research emphasizes the need to address and understand developmental
mechanisms and casual pathways related to youth physical development and trajectories
of physical activity and obesity. In addition, research addressing ballistic skills
allows him to further explore the behavioral and mechanical nature of multijoint ballistic
motor skills and apply this knowledge to skill acquisition, youth physical development
and assessment validation.
Dr. Wilson investigates the neurochemical underpinnings of anxiety- and stress-related
behaviors, with an emphasis on individual differences in neural systems that may represent
risk factors for disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A major
focus is the role of neuropeptides and the amygdala in stress-induced behavioral and
endocrine responses, as well as actions of anxiety-reducing modalities. The project
utilizes a multidisciplinary approach highlighted by virus-mediated gene transfer
technology in combination with behavioral analyses, neurochemical assays including
in vivo microdialysis, anatomical analyses, and molecular assessments of expression