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Strategic hire to enhance KU autism research program

Thursday, August 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Matthew Mosconi, a psychologist and neuroscientist who studies autism spectrum disorders, will join the University of Kansas as an associate professor in the Clinical Child Psychology Program and associate scientist in the Life Span Institute starting Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Mosconi was recruited from the University of Texas Southwestern after a national search as part of KU’s Biobehavioral Approaches to Neurodevelopmental Disorders initiative. The interdisciplinary collaboration provided funds to support the development of breakthroughs in etiological mechanisms, preventive approaches and intervention methods to reduce the challenges for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, the position was made possible by a KU Strategic Initiative grant to the LSI’s Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training: Phase II Expansion.

Mosconi’s research is focused on understanding the development of behavioral and cognitive issues characteristic of autism spectrum disorder and identifying the brain mechanisms that cause these issues. His work also examines brain-behavior linkages in related monogenic conditions associated with autism, including Fragile X syndrome. This work aims to determine pathophysiological mechanisms involved in different forms of autism so that biologically based tests useful for early identification can be developed and new targets can be identified to advance treatment discovery efforts.

“Dr. Mosconi’s arrival represents a clear enhancement of the university’s research strengths in autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said John Colombo, Life Span Institute director. “He represents the best of the new generation of nationally visible autism researchers, and we firmly believe that he will contribute to the tradition of high-quality intellectual and developmental disabilities research here at KU.”

Mosconi earned his master’s degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then completed his post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been supported by the National Institutes of Health at each level of his academic career, and he currently is leading multiple studies investigating the neurobiological bases of sensorimotor and cognitive dysfunction in autism and related disorders. In addition, Mosconi’s research focuses on subtle familial patterns of sensorimotor and cognitive disruptions that may offer insights into the genetic bases of autism spectrum disorders.

“We are happy to be able to expand our portfolio to include interdisciplinary translational research in autism spectrum disorders,” said Ric Steele, director of the Clinical Child Psychology Program. “Dr. Mosconi’s work will enhance our understanding of the neural mechanisms of autism and related disorders.”

Mosconi’s expertise in the assessment and treatment of children with autism and related disorders will also strengthen the ability of the KU Child and Family Services Clinic to provide much-needed services to the community, Steele said.

Mosconi joins other KU scientists who have contributed to the understanding and treatment of autism and related disorders, including Debra Kamps, director of the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, an affiliated center of the Life Span Institute. 

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