School of Medicine
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Daniel Arthur Abrams
Clinical Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsAutism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders and are characterized by significant deficits in social communication. A common observation in children with ASD is that affected individuals often “tune out” from social interactions, which likely impacts the development of social, communication, and language skills. My primary research goals are to understand why children with ASD often tune out from the social world and how this impacts social skill and brain development, and to identify remediation strategies that motivate children with ASD to engage in social interactions. The theoretical framework that guides my work is that social impairments in ASD stem from a primary deficit in identifying social stimuli, such as human voices and faces, as rewarding and salient stimuli, thereby precluding children with ASD from engaging with these stimuli.
My program of research has provided important information regarding the brain circuits underlying social deficits in ASD. Importantly, these findings have consistently implicated key structures of the brain’s reward and salience processing systems, and support the hypothesis that impaired reward attribution to social stimuli is a critical aspect of social difficulties in ASD. The first study produced by this program of research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and showed that children with ASD have weak brain connectivity between voice processing regions of cortex and the distributed reward circuit and amygdala. Moreover, the strength of these speech-reward brain connections predicted social communication abilities in these children. A second study, which was recently published in eLife, examined neural processing of mother’s voice, a biologically salient and implicitly rewarding sound which is associated with cognitive and social development, in children with ASD. Results from this study identified a relationship between social communication abilities in children with ASD and brain activation in reward and salience processing regions during mother’s voice processing. A third study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that mother’s voice activates an extended voice processing network, including reward and salience processing regions, in typically developing children. Moreover, the strength of brain connectivity between voice-selective and reward and salience processing regions predicted social communication abilities in these neurotypical children. Together, results provide novel support for the hypothesis that deficits in representing the reward value of social stimuli, including the human voice, impede children with ASD from actively engaging with these stimuli and consequently impair social skill development.
My future research will leverage these findings by examining several important questions related to social information processing in children with ASD. First, we aim to study longitudinal development of social brain circuitry in minimally verbal children with ASD, a severely affected subpopulation that has been vastly underrepresented in the ASD literature. Second, we aim to examine the efficacy of naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions, such as Pivotal Response Treatment, for children with ASD and their relation to changes in social brain and reward circuitry. Third, we aim to examine distinct neural profiles in female children with ASD who, on average, have better social communication abilities compared to their male counterparts.
Geoffrey Abrams, MD
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsDr. Abrams' research is focused on elucidating the pathobiology behind tendinoapthy and developing new treatment modalities for the disease. Specifically, his team is studying the role of micro-RNA as it relates to chronic inflammation and stem cell differentiation in the development and perpetuation of chronic tendinopathy.
Marwa Abu El Haija
Clinical Assistant Professor, Pediatrics - Gastroenterology
BioI am a pediatric gastroenterologist with clinical and research interest in childhood obesity. I believe that each patient is unique in their disease and background, that is why they deserve to be approached in an individualized way. I aspire to discover what's unknown about the pathophysiologic causes of obesity, and the mechanisms of which treatments work. My clinical and research interests in pediatric obesity found home within Stanford's distinctive position academically, medically and geographically.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Genetics
BioThe Abu-Remaileh Lab is interested in identifying novel pathways that enable cellular and organismal adaptation to metabolic stress and changes in environmental conditions. We also study how these pathways go awry in human diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration and metabolic syndrome, in order to engineer new therapeutic modalities.
To address these questions, our lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to study the biochemical functions of the lysosome in vitro and in vivo. Lysosomes are membrane-bound compartments that degrade macromolecules and clear damaged organelles to enable cellular adaptation to various metabolic states. Lysosomal function is critical for organismal homeostasis—mutations in genes encoding lysosomal proteins cause severe human disorders known as lysosomal storage diseases, and lysosome dysfunction is implicated in age-associated diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration and metabolic syndrome.
By developing novel tools and harnessing the power of metabolomics, proteomics and functional genomics, our lab will define 1) how the lysosome communicates with other cellular compartments to fulfill the metabolic demands of the cell under various metabolic states, 2) and how its dysfunction leads to rare and common human diseases. Using insights from our research, we will engineer novel therapies to modulate the pathways that govern human disease.
Clinical Professor, Pediatrics - General Pediatrics
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMy interest is in the care and evaluation of newborns. In particular, I have been focusing on improving the educational experience for our residents and students in the nursery regarding the examination and management of term or near-term infants.
Clinical Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMy research and work focus on optimizing the use of health system data to create intelligent and accurate emergency referral systems to ensure vulnerable populations receive the care they require as efficiently as possible. I am interested in increasing our understanding of currently available health infrastructure in resource limited settings, and pairing that knowledge with technology tools to help identify patient's true needs and match those needs with health system capacity in real-time.