University of Miami (United States)


The overarching goal of the current project is to investigate the short- and potential long-term psychosocial outcomes of widespread quarantine in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Shelter-in-place and social-distancing orders in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak have disrupted routines, removed social outlets, and decreased or eliminated specialized support. While most research has focused on investigating the social and psychological impacts associated with quarantine in the general population, very little is known regarding mental health outcomes in vulnerable populations. Children with ASD are particularly at increased risk for adverse consequences due to the higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in ASD. Moreover, children with ASD often struggle to behave in a flexible way when faced with unexpected challenges. As a result, the disruption in routine and services that confer support and stability for individuals with ASD is expected to amplify symptom severity, resulting in worse mental health outcomes. The current study will be the first to probe the psychological and social impacts of outbreak response in children with ASD by relating behavioral measures of symptom severity collected pre-quarantine and during the quarantine period with brain function. The knowledge gained from this study is critical to promote community recovery and maximize clinical preparedness to offer additional support to those at increased risk for adverse psychosocial outcomes.

Principal Investigator

Lucina Uddin

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Miami

After receiving a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from the psychology department at UCLA in 2006, Dr. Uddin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Child Study Center at New York University. For several years she worked as a faculty member in Psychiatry & Behavioral Science at the Stanford School of Medicine. She joined the psychology department at the University of Miami in 2014. Within a cognitive neuroscience framework, Dr. Uddin’s research combines functional connectivity analyses of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data and structural connectivity analyses of diffusion tensor imaging data to examine the organization of large-scale brain networks supporting executive functions. Her current projects focus on understanding dynamic network interactions underlying cognitive inflexibility in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Dr. Uddin’s work has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex, JAMA Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, PNAS, and Nature Reviews Neuroscience. She was awarded the Young Investigator award by the Organization for Human Brain Mapping in 2017.