Texas Tech Receives Gift for MRI-based Autism Research

With a $500,000 gift enabling the use of emerging technology in the neuroimaging field, Texas Tech University will be on the cutting edge of autism research.

Officials from the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering today (April 9) accepted the gift from Allen Howard, a 1978 electrical and computer engineering graduate, and his wife Linnie, via their foundation, Autumn’s Foundation.  The existing lab within the department will be named Autumn’s Dawn NeuroImaging, Cognition and Engineering (NICE) Laboratory. The NICE lab was formed in 2005 as a collaborative effort between the Whitacre College of Engineering and the College of Human Sciences. The lab directors are Mary Baker, associate professor in electrical engineering and Michael O’Boyle, C.R. Hutcheson professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and assistant dean for research, College of Human Sciences. “Both Mary and Michael want to help people with brain and cognitive disorders by revealing fundamental principles of brain development function,” said Jon C. Strauss, interim dean of the college. “We are truly honored to receive a gift for potentially transformative research on autism that will be conducted in this lab.” The lab will promote the importance of early identification of autism and Asperger’s syndrome from a unique perspective by utilizing scientific and engineering methods. Researchers plan to explore problems and challenges in neuroscience and neuroimaging through an interdisciplinary team approach, incorporating the problem solving and computational capabilities of engineers and the clinical and diagnostic skills of cognitive scientists. NICE lab personnel will conduct a three-year clinical study that will impact autism research through a focused neuroimaging study on mildly autistic children and children with Asperger’s, utilizing a Near Infrared Imaging system, a revolutionary emerging technology in the neuroimaging field.  The funds provided by the Howards and Autumn’s Foundation will supply financial support for lab personnel, provide the opportunity to utilize fMRI equipment through a partnership at Grace Clinic, fund travel and attendance at meetings and autism conferences while also seeking out collaborative research opportunities. CONTACT:   Jeff Sammons, senior editor, Whitacre College of Engineering,(806) 742-3451 or jeff.sammons@ttu.edu.