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SPARK

SPARK is a large, online research partnership that seeks to improve the lives of people with autism through research. The University of Minnesota is one of a network of clinical sites—autism centers and research institutions—that SPARK has partnered with across the country.

The goal of SPARK is to accelerate autism research in order to gain a better understanding of causes and treatments for autism. By building a community of tens of thousands of individuals with autism and their biological family members who provide behavioral and genetic data, SPARK will be the largest autism research study to date.

By joining SPARK, families will be making invaluable contributions to advancing the understanding of autism. This study is valuable to families because they will receive:

  • Results from the analysis of your family's DNA, in the event that you opt to

             receive this information and a genetic cause for autism is found

  • Access to interpretation of findings (de novo vs. inherited)
  • Connection to an ongoing community that provides current access to resources
  • Participation in the study entirely from home
  • Connections to further national studies

 

To register for SPARK visit: www.sparkforautism.org/uminnesota

Registration takes about 20-30 minutes. To participation in SPARK, we ask that you register and complete a few questionnaires online, and provide a saliva sample using a saliva collection kit that will be shipped directly to your home. Find out more about what’s involved on our SPARK FAQ page. Please don't hesitate to call me at 612-624-0116 or email me with any questions!

The FIND Network

The Focus in Neurodevelopment (FIND) Network is a resource that is used to connect individuals in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD) community with research opportunities, 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 region. Anyone can join including individuals with and without a diagnosis, family members, caregivers, professionals and educators. Through our joined efforts we will improve screening, diagnosis, treatment, education and care for individuals with autism. 

To join the FIND Network please visit: FIND.umn.edu 

or call 612-625-8448

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Study

Researchers in the Jacob Lab are examining cognitive brain training along with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on symptoms of compulsivity (getting very stuck in symptoms) and impulsivity (doing things without thought or deliberation) in individuals with a clinical impairment in one of these areas.  These behaviors are often observed in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The use of tDCS is considered to be a safe, FDA approved technique that involves applying a weak electrical current to the scalp.

Who can participate:

  • 12-17 year olds
  • With a neurodevelopmental disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

What happens in this study?

  •  Participants will complete learning tasks on the computer while tDCS is being done
  •  You or your child’s participation is expected to last up to 11 days including 2 brain scan visits and 5 brain training visits within 7 days
  • 3 monthly follow up calls (approx 30 min.)

Compensation will be provided for participating in this study

To learn more, please call our study staff at 612-625-8448 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cognitive Training Study

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are conducting a study to learn about the impact of cognitive training in individuals with ASD. The objective is to find out more about a new computer-based cognitive training program for adolescents (12-17 years) and adults (18–35 years) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We will be comparing performance on social and cognitive measures before and after participants complete the training program.

Who can participate:

  • Individuals with an ASD diagnosis between the ages of 12-35 years old

Study participation includes:

  • First, participants will complete some questionnaires and assessments.
  • Then, we will provide access to a set of computer-based training games to be played over several weeks (~10-14 weeks).
  • After completing the first set of games and questionnaires, participants will be asked to try a second set of questionnaires and computer-based training games (~10-14 weeks).
  • Participants will receive compensation for each assessment session and for completing scheduled training sessions on a weekly basis.
  • Participants may receive up to a total of $395.00 for completing all assessments and both sets of training games (~22-27 weeks).

 
This study is testing two different training programs and participants will be randomly assigned for their first study phase. They will then receive the alternate program in the second phase of the study.

For more information, please contact the Jacob Lab study team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 612-625-8448

Gut and Microbiome Study

The University of Minnesota is looking for individuals to participate in a research study designed to understand the relationship between the gut microbiome and brain development. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders are four times more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms, and this study aims to establish a link between gut health and neurodevelopment to potentially serve as a target for future treatment.

Who can participate:

  • Children 1-3years old
  • With or without a diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental disorder

Study participation includes:

  • One 30-minute in-person meeting with one of our researchers
  • Collection of a fecal sample from the child (often collected from diaper)
  • Compensation with $20 gift card

For more information, please contact the Jacob Lab study team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 612-625-8448