Converging evidence from genetics suggests that disruptions in the development of healthy neural circuits underlie and precede behavioral signs of neurodevelopmental disorders. Examination of functional connectivity patterns in infants at risk for ASD, well before behavioral signs and confounding comorbidities emerge, can elucidate early brain changes that relate more directly to putative biological mechanisms. In our lab, we integrate electroencephalography (EEG) with behavioral assays to examine early neural network changes in infants at high risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, including those with a family history of autism, NICU graduates, and infants with genetic syndromes such as Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). These studies have led directly to an early intervention trial for TSC, the first behavioral intervention trial for a rare disorder.
We have developed and tested electrophysiological methods that can robustly elucidate brain network development in challenging populations, namely infants and children with neurodevelopmental disorders, with the goal of developing scalable, mechanistic biomarkers of atypical brain development that will improve both diagnostic prediction and treatments.
We have entered an era of precision therapeutics in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), with identification of specific genetic etiologies that cause NDDs. As disease-specific therapies are developed, we must be prepared for the design and implementation of successful clinical trials. Clinical trial readiness includes (1) identification of meaningful clinical endpoints, (2) measurement of biomarkers that inform patient selection and drug target engagement measurement, and (3) methods to improve scalability and accessibility of research and treatment for families. The Jeste Lab has developed methods to address each of these goals in trial readiness, and our research has culminated in several precision health trials in genetic syndromes including TSC and Angelman syndrome.
Dr. Jeste is a behavioral child neurologist specializing in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is an Associate Professor-in-Residence in Psychiatry, Neurology and Pediatrics at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the director of the UCLA CARING Clinic, and a lead investigator in the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART). After earning a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1997 and her MD from Harvard Medical School in 2002, Dr. Jeste completed a residency in child neurology and a fellowship in behavioral child neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was recruited to UCLA CART in 2010. Dr. Jeste’s research is focused on developing methods to improve precision in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. The Jeste Lab studies neurodevelopmental disorders from early infancy through late childhood.
Dr. Jeste has designed innovative studies in early predictors of autism in a genetic syndrome called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) that integrate biomarkers with behavior to define atypical development prior to the onset of autism. This work in TSC has led to the first randomized controlled clinical trial of behavioral intervention for these infants and has paved the way for other early intervention trials in rare genetic syndromes. Dr. Jeste’s research is directly inspired by her clinical work. To address the many gaps in medical care for rare genetic forms of neurodevelopmental disorders, she founded and directs the CARING Clinic (Care and Research in Neurogenetics). This clinic has become the hub for several new clinical trials for genetic syndromes. Dr. Jeste’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Simons Foundation. She holds several national and international leadership positions including the Board of Directors of the American Brain Foundation, Board of Directors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the Board of Directors of the International Society for Autism Research. In 2019 she became Chair of the International Baby Siblings Research Consortium. In 2019 she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her innovations in research in early predictors and intervention for genetic neurodevelopmental disorders.