New Neuroscience Club at UofSC

Cartoon of a superhero brain

New Neuroscience Club at UofSC

There’s a new club for UofSC students who are interested in neuroscience! The Neuroscience Club was founded to foster a shared passion for learning about the brain. Open to every student regardless of their major, their purpose is to increase engagement and education of neuroscience by exposing students to the neuroscience research being conducted on campus. In addition to recruiting more students to the neuroscience minor, the club is interested in creating community support to bring a neuroscience major to UofSC.

They’re hosting several events throughout the semester to showcase diverse career opportunities in the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience. They also seek to bring awareness to mental health and brain disorders and diseases through community service.

For more information, check out their profile on Garnet Gate and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


Silhouette of a head with a puzzle piece shaped cutout

UofSC Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders Center of Excellence

Dr. Jane Roberts and Dr. Jeff Twiss were recently awarded funding to develop a center of excellence for autism and neurodevelopmental disorders research at the University of South Carolina (UofSC). This initiative aims to build a multi-disciplinary, collaborative center for basic, clinical, and intervention research and education in autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. This exciting collaborative effort has the potential to impact prevention, diagnosis, treatment and interventions for autism and related disorders.

Learn more.


girls in a park

Do you have a daughter with autism?

Carla Wall, a doctoral student in the NDD Lab, is currently recruiting young girls with autism to participate in a limited study.

She is recruiting participants who meet the following criteria:

  • Girls (approx. 4-5 years old) with autism and a developmental delay
  • Families must live in Columbia, SC or be willing to drive to the USC Columbia campus

The study involves a play-based, interactive assessment of the child’s behavioral and developmental skills. The child will also participate in an eye-tracking experiment and will wear a small heartrate monitor throughout the assessment.

Participants will receive a $100 stipend for their time.

For more information about this opportunity, please contact Carla Wall by phone (803-777-5676) or email (carlaaw@email.sc.edu).


Robin and Sam Blackwood

Mom Shares Fragile X Story to Encourage Researchers

The first sign of trouble was when Robin Blackwood’s baby boy didn’t want to play peek-a-boo or pattycake, even after his first birthday.

“He wasn’t really communicating or trying to imitate. That’s when we started realizing something was up and wanted to try to get some answers.”

She’s telling Sam’s story to an audience of doctors and researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina during the South Carolina Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Consortium’s research symposium. It’s a chance for them to hear from one of the people their work is aimed at helping.

Testing showed Sam has fragile X syndrome, caused by a genetic mutation. “My husband and I researched and really have spent the last 8 years trying to understand what fragile X is, what it would mean to Sam, what the symptoms are,” Blackwood says of the incurable condition.

“We know learning disability is the prominent one, but also autism is highly likely. Anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing disorder. Sam has all of these issues.”

Read more.


Fragile X chromosome illustration

Fragile X Day is July 22!

Don’t forget! July is Fragile X Awareness Month, and July 22 is National Fragile X Awareness Day. Follow us on Facebook for special updates throughout the month!


UofSC mascot Cocky in Chicago

The NDD Lab Goes to the Windy City!

We’re excited to be conducting a special study with collaborators at Loyola University in Chicago to learn more about brain development in infants and children with fragile X syndrome! The ultimate goal of this study is to enable early detection and promote targeted early intervention services so children with fragile X syndrome can learn to their full potential.

We are currently recruiting families in the Chicago area with children & infants 8 years old or younger who have been diagnosed with fragile X syndrome or the FMR1 premutation. The assessments will take place in the Chicago area.

For more information, click here!

We’d love to talk with you about this opportunity! Please contact us by email or by phone at (803) 777-5676 for more information or if you’re interested in participating.

One of our child participants wearing an EEG cap.

Libby Tillman and Bobbie Schermbeck at Discover USC 2019

Undergraduate Research Awards

We’re excited to announce that several of our undergraduate research assistants were awarded research grants for the upcoming summer and fall semesters!

Magellan Scholar Award:

  • Margaret Besse, Sensory Processing and Anxiety in Autism
  • Hannah Pressler, Biobehavioral Mechanisms of ADHD in Preschoolers with Fragile X Syndrome
  • Malorie Webb, Syndrome-Specific Attention Profiles in Infants with Fragile X Syndrome and Down Syndrome

Science Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Program:

  • Isabelle Robinson

Exploration Scholars Program:

  • Matt Caputo

Current and former members of the NDD Lab at the 2019 Gatlinburg Conference

2019 Gatlinburg Conference

The NDD Lab attended the 2019 Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in San Antonio, Texas. This year’s theme was “Translational Research on Down Syndrome.”

Dr. Jane Roberts is a member of the Executive Committee for the conference, which was established in the 1960s as an annual scientific meeting designed to advance translational biobehavioral research on intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Abigail Hogan and Dr. Elizabeth Will chaired symposia on “Neurophysiological Indicators of ASD-Related Behavioral Phenotypes” and “Mechanisms and Functional Consequences of Motor Impairments across Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Autism, and Single Gene Mutations”, respectively. Doctoral students Jordan Ezell, Shannon O’Connor, Carla Wall, and Conner Black presented research posters.

We were delighted to run into several former team members at the conference, including Kelly Caravella White, Carly Moser, Sara Matherly, and Debra Reisinger.

For more information about the Gatlinburg conference, go to their website.


Dr. Jessica Klusek in her lab

Former NDD Lab Postdoctoral Fellow Receives Early Career Award

Dr. Jessica Klusek has received an Early Career R21 Award from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Dr. Klusek spent three years in the NDD Lab for a postdoctoral fellowship before joining the USC Communication Sciences and Disorders department as an assistant professor in 2016. Her research focuses on communication disorders associated with autism and fragile X syndrome.

She will use the three-year, $440K grant to advance her research on the FMR1 premutation, aiming to delineate the full range of oral and written language features associated with the FMR1 premutation as well as their interface with cognitive-executive aspects of the phenotype and FMR1 gene dysfunction. This will be the first systematic investigation of language abilities in premutation carrier mothers—examining aspects of written and oral language that differ from non-carrier mothers and mothers who have children with autism spectrum disorder.

“This research will refine our understanding of the full range of language phenotypes linked with FMR1 gene dysfunction,” she says. “It will also inform the development of identification and treatment efforts targeted towards the specific needs of mothers who carry the FMR1 premutation and their families.”

If you’re interested in participating in Dr. Klusek’s study, you can learn more at http://www.scfamilystudy.com.


NDD Lab Team at INSAR

Calling for Applications: Postdoctoral Fellowship Position at the NDD Lab

Dr. Jane Roberts and the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab at the University of South Carolina are pleased to announce the availability of one full-time NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship position. The fellow will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of ongoing projects focused on early development in fragile X syndrome, autism, Down syndrome, and siblings of children with autism.

Specialized training in the following domains will be offered:

  • Advanced physiological methods (e.g., heart activity, EEG/ERP, salivary cortisol)
  • Autism diagnosis (e.g., ADOS-2 research reliability)
  • Professional development (e.g., design of new studies, manuscript preparation, student mentorship, grant preparation, and the transition to independence)

The fellow will be encouraged to submit their own application for external funding to a major federal agency or private foundation. Dr. Roberts’ postdoctoral fellows have a history of external funding success, particularly with NIH F32 and Loan Repayment Program (LRP) applications.

Applicants with expertise in neurodevelopmental disorders will be considered. Our group is multi-disciplinary and includes faculty, staff, and students with training in Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as Clinical, School, and Developmental Psychology. While this fellowship has a primary focus on research, there will be many clinical training opportunities, and clinical supervision can be provided by our team’s licensed child psychologist.

The start date is Fall 2019, with some flexibility as needed. This is a two-year position, with possibility of extension.

Please e-mail a CV and statement of interest to:
Jane E. Roberts, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
Jane.Roberts@sc.edu


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