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College of Arts and Sciences


The Carolina Autism and Neurodevelopment (CAN) Research Center at USC brings together an interdisciplinary group of faculty from across campus to collaborate and advance research in the fields of autism and neurodevelopment.

Faculty Member Department Focus Area

Jessica Bradshaw, Ph.D.

Lab website

Psychology Dr. Bradshaw’s research focuses on early identification of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the first years of life, including: 1) quantifying the emergence of, and interrelations between, social behavior, visual attention, and motor skills in neonates, infants, and toddlers, 2) identifying aberrant neurodevelopmental pathways that lead to the emergence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and 3) translating these basic findings to early detection and intervention strategies for ASD.
Guoshuai Cai, Ph.D. Environmental Health Sciences Dr. Cai is an bioinformatician and his research focuses on the development and application of bioinformatic, statistical and computational methods for analyzing genomic and biomedical data to investigate complex human disease including Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Specifically, his current research aims at developing efficient methods for single-cell RNA-seq data analysis, multi-dimensional genomics data integration, and marker identification and disease outcome prediction using machine learning methods.

Sarah Edmunds, Ph.D.

Lab website

Psychology & Educational Studies Dr. Edmunds studies neurodiversity-informed interventions that address functional impairments associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as in social communication, flexibility, emotion regulation, and anxiety. She aims to investigate how to best implement, tailor, and increase accessibility for evidence-based interventions for ASD within early intervention, school, and mental healthcare systems.
Daniel Foster, Ph.D. Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience  Dr. Foster’s research is focused on understanding how specific neuronal circuits regulate repetitive behaviors and habitual behaviors in rodents with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies for treating symptoms observed in numerous disorders including autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 
Norma Frizzell, Ph.D. Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience  The Frizzell laboratory is interested in the neurodevelopmental manifestations of mitochondrial diseases, with a focus on the biochemical mechanisms underlying neurologic deficits. They aim to characterize metabolic changes in mitochondrial diseases that exacerbate the existing genetic defects, and they anticipate that this knowledge will inform tailored therapeutic interventions.
Jessica Green, Ph.D. Psychology Dr. Green’s research uses non-invasive brain recordings to examine multisensory perception and attention, including how these processes are altered in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Neset Hikmet, Ph.D. Computer Science and Engineering  Dr. Hikmet is heavily involved in research and health sector related activities. He has led numerous distributed data collection and management projects and led and participated in grant-funded health informatics research in a wide range of contexts. His recent research project Health Services Utilization Dashboard leverages Health Sciences South Carolina’s (HSSC) 2.7 million patient based clinical data set which provides insightful information.
Kimbery Hills, Ph.D. Psychology Dr. Hills provides clinical training in ASD assessment skills to clinicians across the state of South Carolina. Her current research interests focus on autism diagnosis, psychological assessment, prevention and intervention for at-risk youth and positive psychology.

Robert Hock, Ph.D., LMSW

Lab website

Social Work Dr. Hock is currently serving as principal investigator on a South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services-funded award to study person-centered service design in behavioral health organizations. The research will focus on how to more actively engage patients in their care by developing and implementing an actionable plan to assist in achieving personal recovery goals. His research expertise includes person-centered design in behavioral health organizations, treatment of autism spectrum disorder, and mental health of children and families.
Abigail Hogan, Ph.D. Communication Sciences & Disorders Dr. Hogan's research focuses on social communication in neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome), with an emphasis on factors that contribute to social communication development in young children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Hogan is especially interested in understanding the relationship between physiological regulation, anxiety symptoms, and social communication difficulties in young children. Dr. Hogan directs the Communication in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CANDi) Lab in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Fiona Hollis, Ph.D.

Lab website

Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience  Dr. Fiona Hollis is a behavioral neuroscientist who studies the role of brain mitochondrial function in social behavior. Her research uses preclinical rodent models to investigate the mechanisms underlying social behaviors important to neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Xianzheng Huang, Ph.D. Statistics Dr. Huang’s longstanding research endeavor is studying effects of measurement error on statistical inference and developing nonparametric methods for mean regression, mode regression, and density estimation in the presence or absence of measurement error.

Caitlin Hudac, Ph.D.

Lab website

Psychology Dr. Hudac's research focuses on brain development in infants, children, and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and with a genetic mutation linked to  NDDs.  She uses multiple techniques (EEG, ERP, eye tracking, fMRI) to target the underlying biology associated with social attention and cognition. 

Jessica Klusek, Ph.D.

Lab website

Communication Sciences & Disorders Dr. Klusek’s research program focuses on delineating communication, social, and cognitive associated with FMR1 gene dysfunction, such as in fragile X syndrome and carriers of the FMR1 premutation. Research interests include genetic and environmental influences on phenotypic expression across the lifespan; use of cross-syndrome methods to identify areas of phenotypic overall and divergence with autism and the broad autism phenotype; identification of biological correlates of symptom expression, with a focus on autonomic dysfunction and genetic markers.
David Mott, Ph.D. Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience  Dr Mott’s research focuses on circuit mechanisms in the brain that underlie social behaviors and emotional memory relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Fragile X Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Vignesh Narayanan, Ph.D.

Lab webiste

Computer Science and Engineering Dr. Narayanan's research focuses on dynamic modeling, network science, and data science. We aim to use systems-theoretic and machine learning tools to uncover dynamic biomarkers for understanding complex neural mechanisms.

Ana Pocivavsek, Ph.D.

Lab webiste

Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience   Dr. Pocivavsek's research aims to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of cognitive dysfunction. Poor sleep quality is associated with impairments in cognitive function.  Her research strives to unravel common molecular mechanisms between sleep disturbances and cognitive impairments and introduce new therapeutic approaches to alleviate these outcomes.

Christian O'Reilly, Ph.D.

Lab website

Computer Science and Engineering  Dr. O'Reilly's main interests are related to better understanding the brain across spatial and temporal scales in order to address complex neurodevelopmental issues such as autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The methods he uses include analytical techniques (e.g., EEG source reconstruction, functional connectivity) and modeling (e.g., point neurons, morphologically-detailed neurons, neural masses), as well as the combination of these two approaches through Bayesian model-driven analyses. He is further interested in novel ways to empower the study of neuroscience through AI and to empower AI through biologically inspired neural networks. 

Fabienne Poulain, Ph.D.

Lab website

Biological Sciences Research in the Poulain lab aims at understanding how neuronal circuits are formed, maintained and refined during development. They use a unique combination of genetic, biochemical and high resolution live imaging approaches in zebrafish to decipher the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain wiring directly in vivo. Their discoveries may give new insight on the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders that originate from miswiring of neuronal circuits during development.
John Richards, Ph.D. Psychology Dr. Richards is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist interested in the relation between brain development and attention development. The lab uses structural MRI, DTI, functional MRI to evaluate brain development, and EEG/ERP during face processing to examine the role of the brain in attention to faces. They also study children and adults, and have some collaborative work on FXS and ASD.

Jane Roberts, Ph.D.

Lab website

Psychology & Dean for Natural Sciences Dr. Roberts is a  Carolina Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology. Her work focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms that underlie cognitive and behavioral functioning in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, fragile X syndrome, and ADHD.

Pabitra Sahoo, Ph.D.

Biological Sciences Dr. Sahoo’s research focuses on finding functions of stress granules formed under physiological conditions in neuronal development, nerve repair, and pathological conditions using a combination of genetic, molecular, and cell biological tools. 

Deanna Smith, Ph.D.

Lab website

Biological Sciences Dr. Smith studies how a microtubule motor (dynein) is regulated by the lissencephaly protein, LIS1. Her lab is particularly interested in how LIS1 controls axonal transport, a process vital to the maintenance of neural circuits and neural health. Currently, they are studying the effect of LIS1 missense mutations, including a mutation found in a child with autism. 
David Stodden, Ph.D. Physical Education Dr. Stodden's research agenda focuses on promoting the acquisition and development of fundamental motor skills and the association of motor skill competence with physical activity, health-related physical fitness, perceived competence, and obesity across the lifespan. His research emphasizes the need to address and understand developmental mechanisms and casual pathways related to youth physical development and trajectories of physical activity and obesity. In addition, research addressing ballistic skills allows him to further explore the behavioral and mechanical nature of multijoint ballistic motor skills and apply this knowledge to skill acquisition, youth physical development and assessment validation.

Jeff Twiss, Ph.D.

Lab website

Biological Sciences & Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Twiss  is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, SmartState Chair in Childhood Neurotherapeutics, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. The Twiss lab uses molecular and cellular biology approaches to understand how neurons develop and function. They are particularly interested in how post-transcriptional regulation impacts neuron growth, focusing on subcellular mRNA translation and RNA dynamics in neurons.

Kristy Welshhans, Ph.D.

Lab website

Biological Sciences Dr. Welshhans’ research focuses on molecular mechanisms in the brain that regulate the formation of nervous system connectivity during development. Using both mouse and human cellular models, her lab aims to identify how changes in these mechanisms may contribute to Down syndrome and the intellectual disability phenotype.
Marlene Wilson, Ph.D. Pharmacology, Physiology, & Neuroscience  Dr. Wilson is a stress neurobiologist and her research program investigates the neurobiological basis of sex-dependent individual differences in anxiety-like, stress and fear responses in preclinical models. She uses both conditioned and unconditioned models to investigate behavioral, endocrine, autonomic, and anatomical parameters, including rodent ultrasonic vocalizations.
Katie Wolfe, Ph.D. Educational Studies - Special Education Dr. Wolfe’s research focuses on communication interventions for individuals with autism, data-based decision making for educators and other practitioners, and the analysis of single-case research data.

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