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Team members at NC FXS picnic

The Team Attends NC Fragile X Foundation’s Annual Picnic, October 2022


Fragile X Newsletter – Summer 2021

Please click the above link to see our newsletter for information on ongoing studies of children and infants with fragile x, as well as recently published research made possible by past fragile x studies in our group.


AUTISM SCIENCE FOUNDATION - GuideStar ProfileA study led by Dr. Jessica Girault was highlighted in the Autism Science Foundation’s annual review of autism science advances in 2020.  Each year the Autism Science Foundation recaps the year’s major scientific advances, and this year’s issue highlights Dr. Girault’s work towards the early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using a family study design. The study, published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders included a sample of 385 children with autism (probands) and their younger high-risk toddler siblings (n = 770 total participants) assessed as part of the multi-site Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) led by Dr. Piven. Using parent-report of proband behavior on a common screening tool for autism, the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), Girault and colleagues were able to predict the diagnostic outcome of high-risk younger siblings at 24 months. Each additional symptom endorsed for the proband on the SCQ increased the younger sibling’s risk for ASD by 6%; this translates to nearly a 3-fold increase in risk between siblings of the lowest and highest scoring probands. The study also included assessments of similarities in cognitive and behavioral abilities among proband-sibling pairs and found that communication abilities, and in particular receptive language, was strongly correlated among pairs where both siblings were diagnosed with ASD. Findings from this study suggest that ASD traits and behavioral profiles in probands have the potential to identify risk for ASD and specific areas of developmental concern in younger siblings at familial high-risk for ASD.

Dr. Girault presented this work at the NIH’s annual meeting of the Autism Center’s for Excellence in June of 2020 and results from this study served as preliminary data for her NIMH-funded K01 Career Development Award. This work launched a series of family-based studies using the IBIS sample that are currently underway to explore how familial traits may inform brain and behavior development in high-risk infants. Dr. Girault is also funded by the Foundation of Hope to extend this family study design to Fragile X and Down syndrome.

Media Coverage on Published Research

“How AI Can Predict Cognitive Development at Birth”. Science World Report. 2019.

“AI and MRIs at birth can predict cognitive development at age 2, UNC study finds”. UNC Health Care News Room. 2019.

“AI and MRI at Birth Shown to Predict Cognitive Ability by Age of Two”. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. 2019.

Invited Oral Presentations

Girault JB. (May 2021). Genetic liability for autism and infant brain development. Seaver Autism Center Advances in Autism Conference. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB. Invited Panel Chair. (May 2021). Insights into autism from longitudinal studies spanning infancy to

adulthood. International Society for Autism Research. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB. (March 2021). Inherited genetic liability for autism and infant brain development. Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain Research Colloquium, University of Minnesota. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB. (June 2020). Familial Genetic Liability and Genetic Background: Shaping Infant Brain and Behavioral Development in Autism. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) Investigators Annual Meeting. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB. (May 2020). Identifying the role of parental traits in explaining phenotypic variability in children with neurogenetic developmental disorders: towards early individualized intervention. Finalist presentation for grant funding to the Board of Trustees for the Foundation of Hope. Virtual Meeting.


Refereed Conference Oral Presentations

Girault JB. (May 2021). The Infant Brain Imaging Study: exploring the role of familial traits. International Society for Autism Research. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB, Shen MD, Styner M, Piven J, Pruett JR. (April 2021). Infant neuroimaging and prediction: towards early identification and individualized intervention. Society for Research in Child Development. Virtual Meeting.

Girault JB, Urban CJ, Fisher ZF, McCormick EM, Gates KM. (May 2020; accepted, not presented due to COVID-19). Parsing heterogeneity in brain networks. American Psychological Association (APS). Chicago, IL.

Girault JB, Swanson MR, Meera SS, Grzadzinski R, Shen MD, Burrows CA, Wolff JJ, Pandey J, St John T, Estes AM, Zwaigenbaum L, Botteron KN, Hazlett HC, Dager SR, Schultz RT, Constantino J, Piven J for the IBIS Network. (March 2020; accepted, not presented due to COVID-19). Quantitative variation in ASD proband language and toddler sibling outcomes at 24 months. Meeting on Language in Autism (MoLA). Durham, NC.

Girault JB, Swanson MR, Grzadzinski R, Shen MD, Shoba SM, Pandey J, St John T, Estes AM, Zwaigenbaum L, Botteron KN, Hazlett HC, Dager SR, Schultz RT, Constantino J, Piven J. (May 2019). Parental reports of ASD proband functioning are associated with outcomes at 24 months in infant siblings. International Society for Autism Research. Montreal, Quebec, CA. [Awarded trainee travel stipend from INSAR to give this talk]

Bullins J+, Goldman BD, Short SJ, Knickmeyer RC, Styner M, Gilmore JH (May 2016). White matter integrity is related to cognitive ability in early life. Society of Biological Psychiatry. Atlanta, GA.