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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Faculty

Christy Rossi

Areas of expertise/research interests

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Development of the embryonic nervous system

Current Research and Projects

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by poor social and communication skills combined with a restricted set of stereotyped behaviors. The range of behaviors displayed by different individuals with an ASD can vary widely, leading to a very heterogeneous population of individuals diagnosed with ASDs. This variation makes studying potential treatments for ASD particularly difficult. I'd like to identify groups of children with ASD that are more homogenous in order to better understand which subtypes exist within the broader diagnosis.

Professional Biography

My postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. David Amaral (University of California, Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute) focused on using neuroimmunological and neuroanatomical approaches to investigate characteristics that may be useful in identifying subtypes of children with ASD. I explored brain-reactive antibodies that have been identified in the blood plasma of some children with ASD, and found that plasma of children with and without ASD contained brain-reactive autoantibodies with similar frequencies but that children whose plasma reacted to brain neurons had a higher reported incidence of behavioral and emotional problems. I also performed structural MRI scanning to investigate whether potential relationships between neuroanatomy and other variables can help define subtypes of ASD as part of the Autism Phenome Project.

My doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Kristin Artinger (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus) focused on the development of two populations of cells that from during embryonic development of the nervous system - Rohon-Beard (RB) neurons and neural crest cells (NCCs). These two populations of neurons form at the neural plate border, the junction between neural and epidermal ectoderm. RBs provide the earliest mechanosensory role in embryos of many species, and NCCs give rise to most of the peripheral nervous system and several non-neural cell types in vertebrate embryos. I found that RBs are induced where interactions between neural and non-neural ectoderm occur and that the secreted signaling molecule BMP4 directly induces RBs in cultured neural tissue. I identified several NCC progenitor cells that do not give rise to RBs and showed that many RBs undergo terminal cell division during early neural plate border development, suggesting that the lineage between RBs and NCCs is largely or completely separate at the neural plate border.

Prior to entering graduate school, I provided one-on-one treatment for young children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders using applied behavior analysis in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.

Education

PhD, Neuroscience, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 2008
BA, Psychology, University of Texas, 2000

Publications

  • Rossi, C.C., Van de Water, J., Fuentes, J., Amaral, D.G. (In press, 2013). "Brief Report: Antibodies Reacting to Brain Tissue in Basque Spanish Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder And Their Mothers." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
  • Rossi, C.C., Van de Water, J., Rogers, S.J. and Amaral, D.G. (2011). "Detection of plasma autoantibodies that react to brain tissue in young children with and without autism spectrum disorders." Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25, 1123-1135.
  • Rossi, C.C., Kaji, T., and Artinger, K.A. (2009). "Transcriptional control of Rohon-Beard sensory neuron development at the neural plate border." Developmental Dynamics, 238(4), 931-943.
  • Rossi, C.C., Hernandez-Lagunas, L., Zhang, C., Choi, I.F., Kwok, L., Klymkowsky, M., Artinger, K.B. (2008). "Rohon-Beard sensory neurons are induced by BMP4 expressing non-neural ectoderm in Xenopus laevis." Developmental Biology, 314, 351-361.