The Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) for Early Prediction of Autism

Infant siblings of children with autism have a significantly higher likelihood of developing autism compared to the general population. By studying these infant siblings early in development, we have the opportunity to understand how the brain changes in the first year of life, prior to the emergence of autism symptoms and, by doing so, identify early markers that could improve the timing of intervention. For over a decade, there has been a national study called The Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) that has used MRI to study early brain development in infant siblings. The IBIS investigators have found that changes detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the first year do predict autism. However, MRI has limitations, in that it is expensive and sometimes difficult to perform, as the baby has to be very still while being scanned. Here at UCLA, we recently received funding to add more scalable measures of brain function to this IBIS network using electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking (ET), which are both developmentally sensitive and accessible in community settings. In this project, which takes place at 5 sites around the country, we will study 250 infant siblings at ages 6 and 12 months using MRI, EEG and ET. This network includes the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Washington University in St. Louis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Minnesota, and University of Washington, with UCLA serving as the analysis core for the EEG data. Ultimately, this project will strive to enable earlier prediction of an autism diagnosis, and to provide the possibility of screening infants within the community well before symptoms of autism manifest. This is an exciting development in the Jeste Lab’s existing expertise in early development, informed by our active research projects investigating the earliest signs of autism within the infant brain.

Amidst the unprecedented realities that we are all actively addressing in our own lives during the COVID-19 global pandemic, we are putting a temporary pause on our in-person events, including research activities that involve direct patient contact. Some clinical trials, particularly those that involve medication delivery, may be continued. Please contact the research study team for more information. In the meantime, our work has not stopped. We are continuing to work on analyzing research data that we have already collected, which is keeping us busy! Please contact us to learn more about enrollment: