Lucina Uddin Wins the USERN Prize in 2017 in Medical Sciences

11/19/2017 10:10:12 PM


Professor Lucina Uddin Won the USERN Junior Prize in 2017 for Significant Contribution to Medical Sciences. The following article is an overview of her past and present scientific achievements earning her the USERN Prize of 2017

The USERN Prize is an international and independent prize aimed to identify young scientists on the verge of their carrier, those who have contributed to their field with significant scientific projects, human endeavours and exceptional talent, under age of forty. Professor Lucina Uddin who is as of 2017 Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology University of Miami, took the title for USERN prize 2017 medical laureate with "Brain dynamics and flexible behavior in autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder". Uddin who has been listed as Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher since 2015, has won over 220,000 USD since 2015 to conduct her research in neuroimaging of childhood developmental disorders. She currently holds faculty positions at the UCLA and UM and is the director of the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory. She is the principal investigator of two NIH funded research initiatives in "Cognitive and Neural Flexibility in Autism" and "Structural and Functional Connectivity of Large-Scale Brain Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorders". Abstract of her scientific project that came into view by the USERN board of medical science referees reads:

"Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders affecting young children. The broad, long-term objectives of this project are to apply recent advances in neuroimaging of brain dynamics to characterize the neural bases of flexible behaviors in children with ASD and ADHD. While ASD is often characterized by cognitive inflexibility and behavioral rigidity, children with ADHD tend to be overactive, constantly shifting their attention from moment to moment. We propose to test the novel hypothesis that cognitive and behavioral flexibility rely on neural flexibility, or the dynamic range of functional brain network configurations. We propose that the symptoms of behavioral rigidity and insistence on sameness in ASD arise from atypically reduced brain dynamics, whereas the hyperactivity and inattention observed in ADHD result from atypically heightened brain dynamics. This research will utilize large, publicly available databases of functional neuroimaging data collected from children with ASD, children with ADHD, and typically developing (TD) children to achieve the following aims: 1) to quantify functional brain dynamics in children with ASD, children with ADHD, and typically developing (TD) children using dynamic functional network connectivity (dFNC) analyses applied to resting state fMRI data, and 2) to assess the relationship between measures of brain dynamics and flexible behaviors in children with ASD, children with ADHD, and TD children. Understanding the neural mechanisms underlying flexible behaviors in young children with neurodevelopmental disorders is critical for tailoring appropriate therapies and early interventions designed to treat these symptoms. Specific Aim 1: To quantify functional brain dynamics in children with ASD, children with ADHD, and typically developing (TD) children using dynamic functional network connectivity (dFNC) analyses applied to resting state fMRI data. Hypotheses: Children with ASD will exhibit brain dynamics characterized by reduced flexibility. Specifically, dwell time (time spent in a specific brain state) will be increased, whereas number of state transitions (switching between brain states) will be decreased, compared with both TD children and children with ADHD. Children with ADHD will exhibit brain dynamics characterized by heightened flexibility. Specifically, dwell time will be decreased, whereas number of state transitions will be increased, compared with both TD children and children with ASD. Specific Aim 2: To assess the relationship between measures of brain dynamics and flexible behaviors in children with ASD, children with ADHD, and TD children. Hypotheses: Children will exhibit individual differences in flexible behaviors. In all three groups of children, individual differences in brain dynamics will be correlated with cognitive flexibility as measured using parent-report assessments. "

"It has been a great pleased to be here. I never received such hospitality that I received here in the last two days in Kharkiv. It is a great honour and I am very happy to receive this award. My work is actually understanding brain connectivity and how it influences neurodevelopmental disorders of children […]. I really enjoyed all students and faculties here and I hope to be able to continue to collaborate with USERN …"

Professor Lucina Uddin in Receiving the 2017 USERN Prize in Medical Sciences, November 10th, Karazin University, Kharkiv, Ukraine 

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