Research News

UW-Madison’s Travers receives Hartwell Foundation award to further autism research

April 01, 2016

UW-Madison’s Brittany Travers is receiving a 2015 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award, the foundation announced in a news release on Friday.

Travers will use her funding for a project titled, “Beyond the Cerebrum: Multimodal Imaging of the Brainstem in Autism Spectrum Disorder." These Hartwell awards provide support for three years at $100,000 per year.

Travers is a faculty member with the occupational therapy program in the School of Education's Department of Kinesiology. She also heads the Motor and Brain Development Lab at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center.

Brittany Travers
“I am incredibly grateful to the Hartwell Foundation for their support and I am excited to start this work,” says Travers.

Travers explains that her project will examine the brainstem, a relatively unexplored area of the brain, in 100 children with autism and autism-related disorders.  Her research team plans to link these brainstem measures to behavioral measures of motor skills and autism symptom severity in order to better understand the role of the brainstem in autism. 

Also collaborating on this project with Travers are Andrew L. Alexander, Beth Meyerand and Brendon Nacewicz. They are imaging experts at UW-Madison who can help Travers get the best imaging of the brainstem possible by overcoming barriers that have plagued high quality imaging of this brain region in the past.

Each year The Hartwell Foundation invites a limited number of institutions in the United States to hold an internal open competition to nominate candidates from their faculty who are involved in early stage, innovative and cutting-edge biomedical research that has not yet qualified for significant funding from outside sources. In the 2015 competition there were 15 participating institutions. Based upon the Nominees submitted, the Foundation selected the top researchers to receive a Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award. Notably, Nominees from nine different institutions won Awards in the 2015 Class, with UW-Madison, Northwestern University and the University of Virginia each receiving two awards.

In addition to Travers, UW-Madison’s Reid S. Alisch, an assistant professor with the Department of Psychiatry, received an award for a project titled, “Blood-Based Diagnostic Test for Anxiety Disorder."

"The 2015 competition was very competitive, with strong representation in neurobiology,” Fred Dombrose, president of the Hartwell Foundation, said in the news release. “Nominees who achieved success leveraged internal support and guidance from their participating institution, as well as the experience of previous Hartwell Investigators.”

The primary mission of The Hartwell Foundation is to grant awards to individuals for innovative and cutting-edge biomedical applied research that will potentially benefit children. The general aim is to provide funds for early stage research projects that have not yet qualified for funding from traditional sources.