NEWS | April 4, 2017

Finding signs of anxiety and autism early in infants with fragile X syndrome


Anxiety and autism are often key features of children with fragile X syndrome, but are not always identified early in life when treatments may be most effective.

Jane Roberts Jane Roberts

Psychologist Jane Roberts will discuss these complex disorders and their early signs in very young children in a free public lecture on April 12 at 4:30 p.m. in the UC Davis MIND Institute auditorium, 2825 50th St. in Sacramento.

Roberts is the eighth speaker in the 14th season of the MIND Institute’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, which features an eclectic group of authors, researchers and advocates in the areas of autism spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Roberts is a professor of psychology and director of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Lab at the University of North Carolina. Her research involves characterizing the phenotype, or characteristics, of fragile X syndrome, the leading known single-gene cause of autism spectrum disorder.

Roberts’ presentation, “Emergence of Autism and Anxiety in Fragile X Syndrome” will focus on her research involving two groups at high risk for anxiety: those with fragile X syndrome and those with autism with no known cause.

“Fragile X is also at high risk for autism, and there is a lot of overlap in symptoms between anxiety and autism,” Roberts said. “My work focuses on very early features and manifestations of both anxiety and autism in these two groups and how they are the same and different.”

Roberts will address questions, for example, about the age at which signs of autism or anxiety emerge in fragile X syndrome, how the signs present themselves and whether they are different from the signs of these disorders in infants and toddlers who have a family history of autism.

Finally, Roberts will discuss how her findings can help refine an understanding of the early characteristics of fragile X syndrome and facilitate early identification of the disorder and possible treatments.

Roberts received her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998. Currently she is a principal investigator on two major National Institutes of Health projects that aim to better understand fragile X syndrome in infants and preschool-age children.

The lecture will be held in the MIND Institute auditorium. A question-and-answer session will immediately follow the lecture. No reservations are required for this event. To see the full Distinguished Lecturer Series calendar, click here.