DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This is an application for a National Research Service Award (F32). The candidate for this award is Andrew D. Engell, a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Dr. Gregory McCarthy at Yale University. The candidate will continue his postdoctoral training with Dr. McCarthy. The candidate proposes to further his training in neuroscience methods, particularly directed connectivity analysis, via a series of multimodal experiments to study the properties of the brain's face-processing network. Face perception is a highly developed visual skill that is critical for successful social interaction and which is dysfunctional in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Elucidating the properties of this network may lead to a deeper understanding of these disorders and advance strategies for treatment. The candidate proposes three specific aims. In the first aim, the candidate will investigate the latency and source of the brain's initial face-specific response. In the second aim, the candidate will investigate the functional differences and flow of information between a subset of the brain's face processing regions. In the third aim, the candidate will investigate the access of semantic information regarding faces in focal regions of cortex. The candidate proposes to achieve these aims using subdural electroencephalography, cortical stimulation, and functional magnetic resonance imaging. The functional relationship between focal brain regions will be investigated using sophisticated connectivity analysis techniques. Training in the theoretical basis and practical application of these techniques is a core component of the candidate's development as he prepares for an independent research career.
PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Debilitating deficits in social processing is a core symptom of many psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders as diverse as schizophrenia, Williams syndrome, social anxiety disorders, and autistic spectrum disorders. My focus in this training proposal is on investigating the functional properties and connectivity between components of the face-processing network, an essential component of social processing. Understanding the nature of information transactions among the nodes of this network should deepen our insights into the aforementioned clinical disorders and eventually lead to better treatments.