Category Archives: Events

Gatlinburg Conference: An Interview with Bri Cairney

Five members of the Bernier Lab recently attended the Gatlinburg Conference. I interviewed our EEG and Eye Tracking research coordinator Brianna Cairney, who was in attendance, about her experience.

What is this conference about and how does it relate to the research we conduct here in our lab?

The full title of the conference is The Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. As the title suggests, this conference is focused on research surrounding intellectual and developmental syndromes such as Autism, Downs, Fragile X, ADHD, etc. Gatlinburg has met annually since the 1960s, highlighting a different theme each year. This year’s theme was “Biological and Cultural Perspectives on the Family: Implications for IDD” which directly relates to our work in the lab investigating potential biomarkers of neurodevelopmental disorders using EEG and Eye Tracking measures.

What was the Bernier Lab’s contribution to the conference?

All four of our postdocs, Drs. Caitlin Hudac, Jen Beighley, Anne Arnett, and Jess Peterson, presented a fascinating symposium panel entitled “Uncovering Genetic Subtypes of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.” Each postdoc described the features of a different genetic subtype (SCN2A, CHD8, ADNP, and GRIN2B) that we observed through a variety of behavioral, cognitive, and electrophysiological measures. The four presentations paralleled one another nicely, in part because each presenter used the same unique approach, looking broadly at clinical diagnosis and behavior, and then gradually honing in on information processing, neural activity, and finally genes.

I presented a poster entitled “Evaluation of EEG Success in Populations with Neurodevelopmental Disorders.”

What was your poster about?

Using EEG trail retention data, I showed that although there is a correlation between IQ and EEG success, participants with even very low IQ are, by and large, able to successfully complete EEG. Specifically, 95% of our participants completed EEG. Notably, over 65% of participants with an IQ of less than 55 retained a desirable number of usable trials. Personally, I think this is very exciting, because we are able to capture information about the neural processes of children who might otherwise struggle to complete traditional cognitive testing. For example, three children in my sample were unable to complete IQ testing, yet two of them still successfully completed EEG. Using EEG data, we can learn more about how these kids process information around them and how certain cognitive processes might relate to some of the syndromic features of their diagnoses. For example, in a recently published study by Dr. Hudac et al. (2018), we found that children with autism display a heightened neural response to novel sounds in an auditory task, and was correlated with atypical sensory sensitivities.

The second part of my poster described different strategies we use to ensure participant comfort and compliance before and during sessions, such as sending home a practice EEG netcap and tolerance training plan a few weeks prior to the session and being flexible to the participant’s unique needs and abilities during the session.

What were some of your favorite parts of the conference?

There was a fantastic symposium by Drs. Jane Roberts, Shafali Jeste, Heather Cody Hazlett, and Susan Rivera entitled “Benefits and Challenges of Biomarker Research: Lessons Learned from Studies of Peripheral and Neural Indicators in IDD.” A large part of my job involves conducting EEG and Eye Tracking experiments and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty enthusiastic about using neurophysiological measures to understand IDD. The women presenting in this panel are all prominent researchers who use EEG/ERP, MRI, heart rate, and other physiological measures in their work. They highlighted the advantages of biomarker research (e.g. advances in technology, affordability, ease of utility, theoretical advances, objectivity, ability to elicit responses that are otherwise unobservable) but balanced their praise with a healthy amount of skepticism, identifying some of the challenges and risks. Dr. Roberts cautioned against “objectivity bias” – valuing certain measures (i.e. EEG, eye tracking) as more valuable than behavioral measures, or crediting such methods as more objective than they actually are. She also emphasized the lack of normative data, the challenges surrounding tolerance and compliance to many biomarker measures, and the expertise required to process and interpret biomarker data.

I also really liked the vibe at Gatlinburg. This conference is largely composed of graduate students, postdocs, and fellows, which results in a supportive, welcoming environment where learning and asking questions is encouraged. Additionally, the majority of attendees are female – it’s always cool to see women playing an active role in science and research, especially so in leadership roles. Finally, the conference was held in San Diego this year, so I got to experience a few days of sunshine, which was a welcome break from the gray dreary “April showers” of Seattle. Also I rode a rollercoaster. Twice. And ate tacos every day.

Autism Research Series: Discovery to Solutions – Seattle

On June 14th Seattle Children’s Hospital will host the “Autism Research Series: Discover to Solution”, with Dr. Bernier and Dr. Minjarez on the research panel, hosted by Dr. Hartley from Autism Speaks.
The event is open to the public but RSVP should be done in advance at this link.

This event includes a Resource Fair (5:30 PM-6:30 PM), panel discussion, Q&A session, and many opportunities for networking.

*Ocean Parking is free (upper levels)

Date: Thursday, June 14, 2018
Time: 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: Ocean Café, located on the Main Hospital Campus, 7th level
Seattle Children’s Hospital
4800 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

SPARK January Webinar – Addressing Autism in Today’s Criminal Justice System

Hello SPARK Community Partners!

See below for information about registering for SPARK’s January webinar on autism and the criminal justice system.

            SPARK Webinar – Creating a Culture of Prevention: Addressing Autism in Today’s Criminal Justice System

            Leigh Ann Davis, MSSW, MPA & Samantha Crane, JD

            Tuesday, January 23

            9-10am PST

            Click here to register.

Ms. Davis and Ms. Crane will discuss:

·         Individual strategies and system reforms that could increase the safety of individuals with autism when interacting with police and the criminal justice system

·         Ways to reduce unnecessary police interactions, improve access to emergency services, and ensure access to effective communication in emergencies or during police interactions

www.SPARKforAutism.org/UW

40th Annual Festival of Trees Gala Recap:

A few weeks ago, the 40th Annual Festival of Trees Gala took place at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle! Seattle Children’s employees and supporters had a blast raising money for the Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Uncompensated Care at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Check out the link for more news and pictures from the festivities here:

http://www.seattlefestivaloftrees.com/events.html

 

Don’t forget to view this video shown at the Gala, giving you an inside look at the kind of work the Seattle Children’s Autism Center does. Featuring a few families who kindly gave us a glimpse into their experiences with the team, the video captures the essence of the impact the Children’s community has :

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NWOgycOMv1CnoCfWwCCo7IXcMIoelS32/view

 

Come Participate! Genetics Research and Pirates- What could be better?

Our Research Team is hosting a PIRATE-THEMED Research Family Fun Day on Saturday, December 2nd!  Families interested in participating in autism genetics research will have the opportunity to complete 1-2 research studies in a single day!

The SPARK and PANGEA studies are exploring genetic differences related to autism.  Families who attend the family fun day will be able to complete online registration and saliva collection for SPARK and/or a blood draw for PANGEA.  There will be food, games, prizes, parking, and childcare available!  To RSVP to this event, please contact the research team at 206-987-7917 or at SCACstudies@seattlechildrens.org.

WHAT: Fun, research participation event for families

WHEN: Saturday, December 2 from 9am to 5pm

WHERE: Seattle Children’s Autism Center, 4909 25th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

THEME: Pirates and Buried Treasure!