Intellectual and Developmental
Disabilities Research Center

Sponsored Research Project

MEG Studies of Auditory Processing in Minimally/Non-Verbal Children with ASD and Intellectual Disability

Principal Investigator: Timothy Roberts, PhD
Co-Investigators: J. Christopher Edgar, PhD and Emily Kuschner, PhD
Other Collaborators: Luke Bloy, PhD, David Embick, PhD, and Melanie Pellecchia, PhD

Overview of the Study

The IDDRC's sponsored research project will explore whether certain aspects of neural rhythms and timing of neural firing that have been found to be characteristic of ASD in previous studies, using noninvasive brain imaging called magnetoencephalography (MEG), are indeed common across the spectrum. This study is designed to include minimally verbal and nonverbal children. To better define how specific these brain markers are for ASD, or to identify possible neural brain measures shared across neurodevelopmental disorders, the study will also include children with intellectual disability without ASD.

The team calls the approach MEG-PLAN (MEG Protocol for Low-Language/Cognitive Ability Neuroimaging). It tailors the study participation experience to each child by engaging with parents as partners early and throughout the process. One of the project's Co-Investigators, Emily Kuschner, PhD, spearheads this behavioral aspect of the study design and its emphasis on taking the standard effort at autism-friendliness in research to a new, more personalized level.

Preparation for Study Visits

Parents and caregivers will receive videos and CDs to help prepare their child for participation. The video will help them know what to expect, and audio recordings will familiarize (and desensitize) them to the sounds of the MEG machine.

The research team will also rely on parents and caregivers to facilitate effective communication with their nonverbal and minimally verbal children. Parents and caregivers will work hand in hand with the study team throughout the visit; the process will be extremely collaborative.


The MEG-PLAN study is now recruiting. Eligible participants include school-age children (age 8 to 12 years) with ASD who are minimally verbal or nonverbal and children with cognitive disabilities but not ASD (including those with 22q deletion syndrome, spina bifida, trisomy 21, Turner Syndrome, and intellectual disability with no known etiology).

Study Contact:

Leah Gaetz, Clinical Research Coordinator
Phone: 267-426-4914


This project was recently featured in CHOP's Bench to Bedside! Check out the article here.

My MEG Scan video: