Researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center are conducting a unique study on the effects of aging on older people who have Autism.
While much research has been done on the cause of the condition and treatment for children, this study is believed to be among the first ever regarding the impact of Autism on the elderly. The study is being led by Leslie Baxter, PhD, who is a nationally recognized expert in the use of Functional MRIs (brain imaging that monitors brain activity via blood flow).
"As the first diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) individuals are now reaching old age, it is imperative that we understand the impact of aging on individuals with ASD."
The study was launched in the fall of 2014 but has recently gained momentum with a large grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD was interested in the program because a critical need to be addressed is the cognitive challenges faced by those with ASD at a time when changes in cognition can be so noticeable in all people. Dr. Baxter's team has a history of working with aging individuals, and are especially skilled at addressing the special issues that arise during aging.
Dr. Baxter says that the study currently has approximately 15 participants and is interested in finding more individuals to be part of the project. In this first of several planned studies, participants need to be men between the ages of 40 and 65, right-handed, and be willing to undergo cognitive testing and an MRI. The group is also interested in studying similar men who don't have Autism.
In the study Dr. Baxter and her team are examining the brain activity in older autistic individuals. The long-term goals of this research are to determine what medications and social services might benefit older patients with Autism, as well as to help decision makers understand the needs of the aging autistic community. - Barrow