The JacobLab Making Strides for ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and the presence of repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. The prevalence of ASD has been rising steadily over the past 10 years, with recent estimates that 1/68 children have ASD (CDC, 2014). There are currently no approved medications specific for social behaviors in autism. Recently, several investigational drugs are being studied because of their potential to improve social functioning and restrictive, repetitive behaviors in individuals with autism.

Dr. Suma Jacob MD, PhD

Dr. Suma Jacob’s research lab at the University of Minnesota conducts studies that examine effects of novel interventions on social functioning and repetitive behaviors for both children and adults with ASD. These studies hope to give insight into future treatment and understanding of ASD. In addition the JacobLab has created the Focus in NeuroDevelopment (FIND) Network, a first of its kind network in Minnesota for individuals in the autism community to stay connected to research resources and events.

Single Dose Intranasal Oxytocin Study

This research is being done to better understand if the social, language, and cognitive thought processes of individuals with autism can become more flexible. We are looking into new treatment approaches such as intranasal oxytocin that may increase the brain’s ability to learn by being less rigid and more flexible.

How long will the study last? Participants will need to come to our research lab at the CNBD 2 times, about 2 weeks apart. In addition, you will receive a follow-up telephone call from the study coordinator within a week of each study visit. Each study visit will take approximately 3-4 hours.

What is involved in the study? The use of intranasal oxytocin (Syntocinon) is investigational in this study. Participants will be receiving a single dose of the medication so that we may better understand how it acts on symptoms of autism. Participants are randomly assigned by chance to receive either oxytocin or placebo (inactive substance) during the first study visit. At the second study visit, the other substance is given.

During each study visit, participants will be given several tasks that involve problem solving, looking at images and making judgments about them, and listening to sounds and words and answering questions about them. These tests will measure mental abilities such as cognitive flexibility and social recognition. We will also record eye movement when they look at items presented on the computer screen, as well as take 4 samples of blood.

For more information, please contact the Jacob Lab Research Team at jacoblab@umn.edu or 612-625-8448.

VANILLA Study

VANILLA study stands for the Vasopressin ANtagonist to Improve sociaL Communication in Autism. The VANILLA study is seeking participants who are male, between the ages of 18 – 45 years of age. Qualified participants will receive an initial study-related consultation, study-related examinations, and active investigational study medication and/or placebo (an inactive substance).

To find out if you or a loved one qualifies or to learn more, visit VANILLA Study.

For more information, please contact the Jacob Lab Research Team at jacoblab@umn.edu or 612-625-8448.

The FIND Network

What is the FIND Network? The FIND Network is a voluntary registry that is used to connect individuals in the neurodevelopmental disorder community with research opportunities, educational resources, and events. Members of the FIND Network have the opportunity to hear about research being done on neurodevelopmental disorders and are periodically contacted if they are eligible to take part in research. They are also invited to educational events, and receive information about resources in the Minnesota region. Members of the FIND Network are under no obligation to take part in research studies that they are contacted about. The FIND Network is a valuable tool for improving understanding, enhancing treatment, and extending resources for neurodevelopmental disorders in Minnesota. The FIND Network is a collaborative effort made possible by the University of Minnesota Autism Initiative, organizations serving individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders and You!

Who can join the FIND Network? People of all ages and abilities with or without a diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental disorder can join the FIND Network. Family members and friends, as well as educators and professionals, are also invited to join the registry and to learn more about research, resources, and events in the Minnesota region.

Why is this important? The FIND Network bridges the communication gap between researchers, professionals, organizations serving individuals with disabilities and individuals within the neurodevelopmental disorder community. Through our joined efforts we will improve screening, diagnosis, treatment, education and care for individuals with a neurodevelopmental disorder. The FIND Network will…

  • Increase options for families dealing with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Increase knowledge about autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Keep the community informed about the most current research
  • Give families the opportunity to participate in research and events
  • Offer a joint resource to clinicians, researchers and educators focused on ASD and NDDs

How do I join the FIND Network? To join the FIND Network you fill out a short online survey. You can fill the survey out for yourself if you are over 18 years old, or a legal parent guardian can complete the survey for an individual under 18 years old. By taking the FIND Network survey your information is held in a secure database. The database compiles basic characteristics of members so that they can easily be identified and contacted when studies for which they are eligible begin recruitment. You will only be contacted by studies that have been reviewed and approved by the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Human Subjects Institutional Review Board. Follow the link below to join the FIND Network!

Sign up for the FIND Network online.

For more information, please contact our Autism Network Coordinator Jaclyn Gunderson at brink347@umn.edu.