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Clinicians & Researchers

Kenneth Gadow, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, studies psychiatric ASD co-morbidities and what makes morbidities the same or different.  He compared the incidence of various psychiatric disorders within ASD patients and showed a correlative increase in tics and schizophrenia. There was less of a correlation when comparing patients from the psychiatric clinic with ASD patients.

Jill Miller-Horn, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, is board certified in neurology, pediatric neurology, and epilepsy. She has expertise in the medical evaluation and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, ADHD, and other neurological disorders. She specializes in treatment of seizure disorders and sleep in the ASD population, and is studying the effects of sleep medications on ASD patients. Dr. Miller-Horn received her Doctor of Medicine from Drexel University College of Medicine. She completed her residency in pediatrics at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, a fellowship in epilepsy at Children’s Hospital Boston-Harvard Medical School, and a fellowship in child neurology at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Howard Sirotkin, PhD, Associate Professor Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook Medicine, uses the zebrafish system to develop genetic models of ASD. Using zebrafish, he can test behavior using changes in neophobia and acoustic or visual startle; eventually social testing using schooling behavior will be possible. He has made knockout mutations in target genes including the fragile X mental retardation gene. FMR1 mutants are hyper responsive to startle and show reduced neophobia. He will next develop ASD mutant models of DYRK1a, shank3a, and CNTN4.

Matthew Lerner, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, and Director of the Social Competence and Treatment Lab at Stony Brook University. He is an autism researcher and clinical psychologist at the Stony Brook Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. His lab studies the social dysfunction that is associated with ASD, and works to understand the emergence and “real world” implications of social problems in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as the development, evaluation and use of novel, evidence-based approaches for addressing those problems. He suggests that social knowledge is not what is lacking, but rather deficits in social performance and social skills are what need to be addressed. Dr. Lerner has also identified deficits in EEG markers for facial stimuli (N170), and a new EEG marker for vocal stimuli (N100). He guides ASD patients through social performance interventions using targeted activities, repeated practice, and social reinforcement to help them develop better social skills. He has also identified social creativity through improvisational games as a promising skill to develop. Dr. Lerner provides (often free) assessment and treatment to individuals with ASD through studies in the SCTL, and supervises doctoral trainees in the Krasner Psychological Clinic. He has published several dozen articles and book chapters about ASD and serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Dr. Lerner is also co-chair of the Autism Spectrum & Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Group at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and received the Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Autism Research and the Rising Star designation from the Association for Psychological Science. Dr. Lerner received his Doctor of Philosophy in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia and completed an internship in child clinical psychology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, as well as fellowships in leadership education in neurodevelopmental and related disabilities at the University of Illinois – Chicago, and in evolutionary and ontogenetic dynamics at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany.

In July 2016, Dr. Lerner received a $2.3 million Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for his research project, "Optimizing Prediction of Social Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorders." 

Patricia Whitaker-Azmitia, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Stony Brook University, has developed a rat model for ASD. The model is called developmental hyperserotonemia, as increased levels of plasma serotonin are seen in ASD patients. The model involves increasing serotonin levels in the mother and keeping them high in newborns. Animals show repeated and restricted behavior patterns with similarities to ASD behaviors. There is a glutamate/GABA activity mismatch in this model as well as increased neuro-inflammation. There are also decreased levels of serotonin in the brain resulting from loss of serotonin neurons, with many dystrophic looking neurons, as is true in ASD.

In addition, the departments of Neurology, Psychology, and Psychiatry are now providing clinical consultative services for people on the spectrum. The Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic can provide evaluations, medical management, social skills training, and school consultations among other services.