Stephen Sheinkopf, PhD 
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior & Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Women and Infants Hospital 
 

Dr. Sheinkopf received an R01 from the National Institute of Mental Health on September 6, 2019. Dr. Sheinkopf leveraged the Advance-CTR Biostatistics Core to strengthen his proposal for submission, which resulted in a new collaboration between Dr. Sheinkopf and Gavino Puggioni, PhD, at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Puggioni is a co-investigator on the R01, which also includes investigators at Women and Infants Hospital and the Brown University Schools of Public Health and Engineering.​ 

"Neonatal Cry Acoustics and Neurobehavioral Characteristics as Early Markers of Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder"

My team and I developed a system to study the acoustic characteristics in newborn cry that could relate to risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (autism).  Our center has also developed the NNNS, a widely used and well-validated neurobehavioral exam for infants in the newborn period. 

There are currently no available methods to screen for autism in infancy, but preliminary evidence suggests that children with autism may be characterized by atypical features of cry and neurobehavior during early infancy. Until now, the lack of a computerized cry analysis system has been a major barrier to studying and analyzing newborn cry. In addition, studying autism in infancy requires strong networks and systems that support longitudinal methods to follow children as they develop.

This project has the potential to have substantial impact on public health, and to open new doors for early intervention that will lead to an improved understanding of the early developmental course of autism.  

Through this award, we will utilize cry and neurobehavioral assessments that are being collected in collaboration with the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute’s unique pregnancy and birth cohort at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. We anticipate that up to 5,000 infants will be enrolled and followed longitudinally. We will conduct a 2-stage screening and evaluation process to identify children with autism by 24 to 36 months of age. Ongoing analyses will seek to identify neonatal cry and neurobehavioral characteristics that are associated with risk for autism using signal detection methods and complex conditional statistical models.   

Advance-CTR was most certainly instrumental in helping us get this award. Advance-CTR provided important support through its Biostatistics Core. With support from the core, specifically in collaboration with Dr. Gavino Puggioni at the University of Rhode Island, we were able to develop preliminary findings that were important components of the grant application.  This included data that resulted in a publication showing differences in physiologic indicators of arousal and regulation in infants later diagnosed with autism (Sheinkopf et al., Biological Psychology, 2019).

This project has the potential to have substantial impact on public health, and to open new doors for early intervention that will lead to an improved understanding of the early developmental course of autism.  

Meet the Team: 

Stephen Sheinkopf, PhD
Center for the Study for the Study of Children at Risk
Women & Infants Hospital and Brown University

Barry Lester, PhD
Center for the Study for the Study of Children at Risk
Women & Infants Hospital and Brown University

Melissa Clark, PhD
School of Public Health
Brown University

Harvey Silverman, PhD
School of Engineering
Brown University

Gavino Puggioni, PhD
Department of Computer Science and Statistics 
University of Rhode Island