School of Education News

UW-Madison's Travers receives grant to study brainstem structures in children with autism

October 29, 2018

UW-Madison’s Brittany Travers recently secured a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for a research project titled, “Brainstem Contributions to Sensorimotor and Core Symptoms in Children with ASD.”

Travers is an assistant professor with the School of Education and the Department of Kinesiology’s occupational therapy program. Earlier this year, she was appointed as the Carla and Michael Austin Occupational Therapy Faculty Fellow.

Brittany Travers
Travers heads the Motor and Brain Development Lab within the university’s Waisman Center, where she is involved with more than a half-dozen research initiatives exploring various aspects of motor and brain development in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many of these projects include collaborators from across the UW–Madison campus, and often utilize the latest brain imaging technologies.

In this latest project, Travers explains how the brainstem is a complex and early developing brain region that is responsible for sensory, motor, autonomic and critical-for-life functions. However, technological barriers have prevented researchers from being able to examine substructures of the brainstem with neuroimaging.

In this new research project, Travers and her team will examine specific white matter tracts and nuclei within the brainstem in relation to the sensorimotor and core symptom challenges commonly experienced by children on the autism spectrum. Successful completion of this research will help us understand the brain basis of the sensory, motor, and core symptoms in autism.

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