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Campus News in Brief

Lab shares data to advance global autism research

Carnegie Mellon’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab is participating in the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) program, which facilitates the release of over 1,100 autism and control datasets from a group of 16 international research labs. ABIDE is a collaboration of the International Neuroimaging Data-Sharing Initiative, the Child Mind Institute, the Child Study Center at New York University, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

The shared datasets include samples from 539 individuals with autism between the ages of seven and 64, and 573 matched controls from individuals between the ages of six and 56.

Marlene Behrmann, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, said in a university press release, “This is a phenomenal collaboration that will allow researchers unprecedented access to a massive dataset, collected under careful conditions from a very large sample of individuals with autism, all of whom have been carefully characterized in term of their behavioral profile. We can now get a sense of the heterogeneity of the disorder and, for the first time, can begin to discern major trends in the group as a whole.”

Adriana Di Martino, co-founder of ABIDE and professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center, said in the press release, “This collaboration fills an unmet need among the autism research community. By providing access to an unprecedented large-scale dataset, ABIDE has the potential to move autism research forward and thus advance our understanding of a complex disorder.”

Robotics researcher given grant to make robot pills

Metin Sitti, mechanical engineering professor and head of Carnegie Mellon’s Nanorobotics Lab, was recently awarded a total of $787,000 over three years as part of a research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Carnegie Mellon also provided a matching grant for his research.

In a university press release, Sitti described his research as “developing miniature robot pills that will help doctors diagnose and treat disease and be able to respond quickly to a variety of changing environments.”

He continued, “This technology will be designed to help physicians better track disease and make remedies more accessible and affordable for a variety of maladies.”

Sitti plans to design new robotic, pill-sized soft capsules that may be controlled remotely to perform important diagnostic functions within the gastrointestinal tract.

“Robots that can readily adapt to new situations are critical for helping support activities that consumers do daily,” said Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, interim dean for the College of Engineering, in the press release.

Sitti also won the 2011 Nanoengineering Award from the International Society for Optics and Photonics for his research on devices that can manipulate objects on a molecular level.

“Our work will ultimately translate into more successful surgeries and better and faster diagnoses and recovery for patients,” Sitti said in the press release.