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Symposium highlights research contributions of postdoctoral fellows

May. 12, 2016, 9:28 AM

by Sarah Baum

It is widely assumed that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are insensitive to pain due to the wide prevalence of self-injurious behaviors. A new study at Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggests that this may not be true.

Ann Price, M.D., associate dean for Alumni Affairs, presents the Postdoc of the Year award to Boone Prentice, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Richard Caprioli, Ph.D. (photo by John Russell)

Michelle Failla, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Carissa Cascio, Ph.D., used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a ‘communication independent’ tool to measure pain responses and found that individuals with ASD seem to register pain in a similar manner as individuals without ASD.

However, cognitively and emotionally assessing the experience of pain may be diminished in individuals with ASD. Given that individuals with autism can show differences in verbal and non-verbal social communication, the goal of this work is to provide better ways of identifying and measuring pain in individuals with ASD.

Failla was one of the speakers April 29 at the 10th Annual Postdoctoral Research and Shared Resources Symposium in Light Hall. The daylong event featured postdoctoral research in both clinical and basic science departments and highlighted the distinctive contributions that postdoctoral fellows make to VUMC’s research enterprise.

Award recipients included Boone Prentice, Ph.D., Postdoc of the Year, and Danielle Dean, Ph.D., Best Use of Shared Resources.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association and the offices of Biomedical Research, Education and Training (BRET), Postdoctoral Affairs and Research.

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