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NIRS Imaging and its Utility and Importance in Infants

The investigators were engaged in a DoD-funded comprehensive multisystem study of development beginning in early infancy to allow them to understand the mechanisms by which autism’s brain-behavior-body relationships emerge. Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) can make a unique contribution to studying autism’s emergence by providing an infant- and toddler-friendly technology for examining the metabolic and vascular underpinnings of brain changes in early autism. The investigators believe that NIRS measures of cerebral perfusion and of the redox state of the mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase may provide objective early indicators of risk for autism. Reduced cerebral perfusion has been documented in autism, and mitochondrial abnormalities are of emerging interest as well. The investigators believe that these cerebral and metabolic changes may temporally precede behavioral abnormalities. They believe that their detection may eventually allow the early institution of medical measures that could improve perfusion and mitochondrial function and that this could prevent autism or reduce its severity. They believe that the investigation of neurovascular coupling, which can be done by simultaneous NIRS-EEG, may illuminate changes which may arguably be at ground zero of autism. If abnormalities in cerebral perfusion and metabolism develop dynamically in infancy in at least some cases, they may be central to mechanisms of autistic regression. Early detection of these abnormalities could lead to avenues of early medical intervention or even prevention of autism.  The purpose of this equipment grant was to purchase an OxiplexTS FD-NIRS system ISS Inc. device which would allow the investigators to perform these measures.