Infant Brain Imaging Study

Funded by the National Institutes of Health 

What was the purpose of Infant Brain Imaging Study?

Drs. Stephen R. Dager and Annette Estes, researchers at the University of Washington, wanted to learn more about brain development in young siblings of children with Autism Spectrum disorders.

Infants with an older sibling, who was either typically developing or had an Autism Spectrum disorder diagnosis, were recruited to participate in IBIS.  The infants received developmental assessments and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, while their parents provided interviews and completed questionnaire assessments regarding their child’s growth and behavior.

A machine learning algorithm was applied to predict which children, based on their 6 month MRI scan, would go on to receive an Autism Spectrum diagnosis at 24 months of age.  The algorithm correctly predicted 9 of the 11 infants who would later be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder.

The information gained in this study may improve methods of early detection, improve intervention for infants who may be at risk for developing autism, and lead to better outcomes for young children and their families.

What is IBIS School Age Follow-Up?

Drs. Dager and Estes received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue the Infant Brain Imaging Study, re-assessing children who participated in the original study as infants.

These children once again will receive developmental assessments and an MRI scan, while their parents will provide interviews and completed questionnaire assessments.  Data collected at this time point will be compared to data collected at earlier time points.

The information gained in this study may help early identification of clinical difficulties school-age children at risk for Autism Spectrum disorders may face, provide insight into potential clinical outcomes, and lead to better outcomes for children and their families.

Who may participate in this study? What are the criteria?

Families with:

  • A child between the ages of 4 and 12 AND
  • An older sibling who is EITHER typically developing OR has an Autism Spectrum Disorder,
  • AND who have previously participated in IBIS.

What does participation in the study mean?

  • Developmental assessments at the University of Washington Autism Center and Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scans at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
  • Developmental screening for the older sibling with ASD.
  • Completion of questionnaires and phone interviews for parents.

What is the time commitment for participation in the study?

At each time point, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire packet (1-2 hours); a parent phone interview (1.5-2 hours); participate in one or two assessment visits at the UW Autism Center (2-3 hours each); and go to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan.

What will my family get out of the study?

  • All families will receive developmental evaluations of their child, along with a detailed clinical report.
  • All families will receive advice regarding appropriate intervention services.
  • Information regarding your children’s developmental profile can be used in educational planning.
  • Advice and referral information regarding your child’s development and behavior.
  • Complete compensation for you travel and time, in addition to a check for $100 ($50 for completion of the behavioral visits and $50 for completion of the MRI).

What are the risks of participating in this study, and what safeguards are in place to minimize any risks?

This study is approved by a human subjects committee at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and all efforts are made to minimize any potential risks. Psychological and behavioral testing of your child may reveal difficulties with language, mental processing or socialization, as well as a diagnosis of an ASD, which will be reported to you with appropriate follow-up recommendations. Similarly, although no clinically significant brain structural findings are expected, all MRIs will be evaluated by a board-certified pediatric neuroradiologist, and you will be informed of any clinically significant findings with appropriate follow-up recommendations.

Who are the investigators involved in this project?

Annette Estes, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Network Behavioral Assessment
Steve Dager, MD, Co-Principal Investigator
Tanya St. John, PhD, Project Director (UW Site)
Jessica Greenson, PhD, Research Scientist
Anna Wendt, Research Study Coordinator

Whom should I contact to get involved?

This is a network project involving researchers at five other academic institutions throughout North America. Additional IBIS information is available at  To learn more about IBIS, please contact our research coordinator at (206) 616-8839 or

University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital
Infant Brain Imaging Study
Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195

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