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Thursday 27th October 2016

Autism projects get funding

6th August 2007

A merged and expanded study programme in the United States will carry out new research into the causes of autism, in the hope of identifying new treatment methods, and enter its findings on an existing autism database.


Funding and expertise for the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) programme will be provided by two existing programmes under the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH autism programme officials said the two programmes were being consolidated so as to foster greater collaboration between teams of specialists, who would share the same facility so as to address specific research topics in depth.

Under the scheme, specialists in certain fields, for example, brain imaging, could collaborate with other disciplines like behaviour researchers to investigate potential links between physical changes in the brain and behavioural difficulties.

Geneticists might also offer information on a hereditary basis for the disorder in a multidisciplinary research team.

Such teams would be located across the country, but share a single research focus, enabling them to recruit large number of volunteers.

All of the ACE projects will add their data to the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) housed at the National Institutes of Health. NDAR is a web-based tool available to autism researchers around the world.

Funding has already been awarded to five centers and one network to study autistic spectrum disorders this year, with a second round of funding due to be announced in 2008.

Edwin Cook, one of the 2007 award recipients, will lead a team at the University of Illinois at Chicago to focus on understanding the repetitive behavior seen in autism, known as "insistence on sameness?".

Additionally, Eric Courchesne's team at the University of California, San Diego will use brain imaging to track brain development in children believed to be at risk for autism spectrum disorders.

In the field of genetics, researchers at the University of Washington led by Geraldine Dawson will seek to identify genes and other potential factors that may predispose an individual toward autism, as well as factors that might protect them against it.

The way in which autistic people learn and process information will be the focus for Nancy Minshew's team at the University of Pittsburgh, while Marian Sigman will try to understand how autism affects people's communication skills, in a project based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Currently there are no cures and only limited treatment available for autism, a complex brain disorder involving communication and social difficulties as well as repetitive behaviour or narrow interests.

The NIH Institutes providing funding and expertise for the effort are the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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