Research projects at the University of Calgary
Participate in research at the University of Calgary
Multiple researchers from a variety of faculties and departments at the University of Calgary have ongoing research into child development. This site gives information on studies that relate to developmental pediatrics.
For information on other medical research programs at the University of Calgary please visit
Body Image in Adolescents with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder
Many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience feeding and eating problems (e.g., picky eating, sensitivity to food textures, eating disorders), but it is not fully understood why. Body image (how someone thinks and feels about their body) plays an important role in eating disorders. This study aims to understand how teenage females with autism experience body image compared to their peers without autism. We will also examine how body image impacts eating and weight-control behaviours (e.g., dieting, exercise) in teens with and without ASD.
Teenage girls (aged 12-17) and a parent/guardian will be asked to complete a brief phone screening and fill out online questionnaires about their eating behaviours, thoughts, and feelings about their body. Time commitment is approximately 90 min.
This study has been approved by the conjoint health ethics board REB20-0190.
Characterizing Suicidal Ideation and Behaviours in Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Suicidal thoughts and behaviours (STBs) are exceptionally common in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There is currently no way for us to accurately measure suicide risk in this ASD, which often results in inappropriate and ineffective treatment. We also don’t know very much about why STBs occur in this population.
This will be the first study to describe STBs in children and youth with ASD. This study will also examine the relationship between sleep disturbances and STBs in this population.
Participants: Caregivers of persons with autism aged 7-24
Participation in this study includes:
An online survey that takes 20-30 minutes to complete. This survey will ask about the child’s past and current STBs as well as risk factors (e.g., sleep problems, stressful life events, bullying, and mental health issues). If the participant’s child has not experienced STBs, they will be asked about their access to services
After the survey, participants will be sent an invitation to complete a daily sleep diary each day for 1 week that will ask what time the child went to bed, what time they woke up in the morning, and whether they seemed fatigued or refreshed that day.
Participants that consent to be contacted for follow up will be invited to participate in an in-depth interview about their child’s STBs
This study has been approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Research Ethics Board REB19-1108
Examination of sensorimotor and executive function in children with ASD and ADHD using the KINARM
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have difficulty with sensory processing, repetitive movements, and motor coordination. We don’t fully understand the cause of these difficulties. We want to examine sensorimotor control (relating to both sensation and movement) and executive function (managing oneself and doing things such as setting goals) in children with ASD and/or ADHD.
We will do this by doing a robotic assessment of arm movement in the KINARM robot. Parents will be asked to complete questionnaires about behaviour, skills, and medical diagnoses.
Children must be 6-18years old with no muscle or bone injuries that would impair movement, and able to understand the instructions.
If you are interested in participating on this study please contact Kara Murias (403) 441-8411
This study has been approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (REB19-0168).
DELTA – Development of Learning and Tactile function in Autism in early childhood
More than 90% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience atypical responses to sensory stimuli (e.g. touch). Sensory sensitivities are among the core diagnostic features of ASD that impact learning, development, and social function, and make basic daily activities challenging.
Increasing evidence suggests that an imbalance of cortical excitation and inhibition results in atypical sensory processing in ASD. Consistent with the notion of reduced inhibition in ASD, lower GABA (primary inhibitory neurotransmitter) levels in sensorimotor cortex and reduced neuromagnetic responses to tactile stimulation in ASD children above 8 years were found. Lower GABA levels were also linked to atypical performance on vibrotactile tasks that rely on GABAergic inhibition. Evidence of inhibitory dysfunction in older children with ASD exists, but little is known about sensory processing in young children (<8 years), despite early emergence of sensory symptoms in ASD (<age 3).
This study aims to fill this critical gap by investigating sensory tactile processing in young children aged 3–6 years with and without ASD using vibrotactile psychophysics and electroencephalography (EEG).
* Time requirement: 1-2 visits of 2-2.5 hours
This study had been approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board CHREB16-0576.