Crowd-funding Autism Research

December 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

We got an interesting email recently from Elisabeth Whyte, who’s a post-doc working in the Laboratory of Developmental Neuroscience (part of Penn State’s psychology department) on what seems like a cool project: developing a game that would help children with autism get better at identifying faces and making eye contact, two things that can make it difficult for people with autism to connect with others. Whyte, who plays and blogs about World of Warcraft, is trying to use elements of video games to make the intervention more fun and more effective for the participants. She’s working with faculty member Suzanne Scherf.

The problem: Getting enough money. Whyte is between grants right now, so she’s organized a crowd-funding project as part of the #SciFund Challenge. You can click here to watch a video about the research, get some more information on how crowd-funding works, and get details on what the money will be used for. In this case, the money will help pay for MRIs of the brains of people participating in the first phrase of the project—the MRIs cost $500 each—and prepare for the second phase. She’s looking to raise $10,000 by Dec. 14; the project is more than a third of the way there.

The project has a blog, as well, which has some information about the project and some general information about autism, too. And you can read an in-depth interview with Whyte, in which she talks about both the project and the possibilities (and limitations) of crowd-funding, by clicking here.

Crowd-sourcing as a form of funding for research seems to be a growing trend. For more background, check out this 2011 piece from the New York Times and a more recent blog from The Huffington Post.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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