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Investigating the effects of early intervention


About our research

The Lenroot group is using brain imaging to ask questions about the effects of early intervention on brain development in children with autism.

One study is using an innovative technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study compare longitudinal changes in brain activity in children aged 2-6 who have autism with typically developing children. fNIRS maps brain activity through transmitting very low frequency light into the surface layers of the brain from optodes mounted in a cap, and then measuring the characteristics of the light that is reflected back. Based on this, it is possible to determine what areas of the brain are have increased activity. By the close of this project, they will have determined whether participation in an early intervention program results in brain activity in children with autism looking more similar to that of typically developing children.

A second study is of older children, aged 8-12. In this study, children undergo magnetic resonance imaging as well as tests of cognitive function and clinical symptoms. They are then followed for a year to see how they respond to early intervention programs. This is a key developmental period for young people with autism, as they begin early adolescence.   This study will explore whether brain differences are related to the trajectory of development.

Read about Caidos Sapsford’s experience participating in an empathy study.

More resources:

If you would like more information about the studies, please contact Professor Lenroot at

The studies are being conducted as part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living With Autism (AutismCRC), a large study being conducted across many different centres in Australia. More information can be found at

A good place to learn more about autism and resources available in Australia is

See what’s going on at NeuRA