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Exploring the potential of promising intervention techniques for autism spectrum disorders.
Belgium (BeMSA) - KU Leuven, Leuven
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Tervuursevest 101, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Prof. Dr. Hilde Feys
Prof. Dr. Kaat Alaerts , Dra. Jellina Prinsen, Dra. Sylvie Bernaerts
Type of Research Project
- Basic science
What is the background of the project?
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social communication and interaction. For the patient and his/her environment, these social difficulties often yield tremendous personal suffering and also for society, the increasing prevalence of ASD poses high clinical, social and economic challenges. To date, therapeutic interventions for ASD are mainly based on behavioral social skill trainings, since biomedical therapies or pharmacological interventions specifically targeting social dysfunction are largely unproven. The research within our research group mainly focusses on exploring the neural effects of promising intervention approaches for autism spectrum disorders. We are currently running a clinical trial investigating the neural effects of oxytocin treatment. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that is thought to form a key mediator for promoting prosocial behavior by increasing social motivation and the salience of social cues. Our main methodology to assess neural effects of intervention is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electo-encephalography (EEG) and the non-invasive brain stimulation techniques TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). Aside the exploration of the effects of oxytocin, we are also running initial experiments to explore the potential of non-invasive brain stimulation and neurofeedback approaches for enhancing neural processing in autism.
What is the aim of the project?
Unravel the possibilities of new treatment options for autism spectrum disorders in order to better help the patients and their family
What techniques and methods are used?
Neuroimaging techniques (fMRI). Brain stimulation techniques transcranial magnetic stimulation). Neuromodulation techniques (EEG-based neurofeedback).
What is the role of the student?
- The tasks will be done under supervision
- The student will observe the practical experiments but will be highly involved in the analysis of the results
- The tasks of the student will be performed on his/her own
What are the tasks expected to be accomplished by the student?
The student is expected to participate in the ongoing research within the lab, to read literature on the research topic; to recruit participants (controls, not patients), assist in data collections, perform data analysis and write a short scientific report on the internship.
Will there be any theoretical teaching provided (preliminary readings, lectures, courses, seminars etc)
Literature (scientific papers/reviews) on the topic will be provided.
What is expected from the student at the end of the research exchange? What will be the general outcome of the student?
- The student will prepare a scientific report - The student will prepare an abstract
What skills are required of the student? Is there any special knowledge or a certain level of studies needed?
Biomedical science students, Medicine, and Psychology students would fit the profile. The students should minimally have obtained their bachelor’s degree cum laude.
Are there any legal limitations in the student’s involvement
Type of students accepted
This project accepts: - Medical students - Graduated students (less than 6 months) - Students in biomedical fields
- Bernaerts; S.; Prinsen; J.; Berra; E.; Bosmans; G.; Steyaert; J.; & Alaerts; K. (2017). Long-term oxytocin administration enhances the experience of attachment. Psychoneuroendocrinology; 78; 1-9
- Bernaerts; S.; Berra; E.; Wenderoth; N.; Alaerts; K. (2016). Influence of oxytocin on emotion recognition from body language: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology; 72; 182-189
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