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Autism Research

Current areas of research on autism are focused on better understanding the causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatment of the disorder. Additional areas of research include a brain imaging study as well as other imaging studies searching for brain abnormalities that could cause impaired social communication.

Autism Research: An Overview

Basic and clinical research on autism is being conducted, including investigations into causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatment of the disorder.
 
Some specific autism research being conducted includes the following:
 
  • Investigators using animal models to study how the neurotransmitter serotonin establishes connections between neurons in hopes of discovering why these connections are impaired in autism
     
  • Researchers testing a computer-assisted program that would help autistic children interpret facial expressions
     
  • A brain imaging study investigating areas of the brain that are active during obsessive/repetitive behaviors in adults and very young children with autism
     
  • Other imaging studies searching for brain abnormalities that could cause impaired social communication in children with autism
     
  • Clinical studies testing the effectiveness of a program that combines parent training and medication to reduce the disruptive behavior of children with autism and other autism spectrum disorders.
     
Other areas of research on autism include:
 
  • Early diagnosis
  • Genes and their impact
  • Treatment options, including improving communication.
     
Research on Early Diagnosis of Autism
Improved early diagnosis and differentiation of various forms of autism is a goal of brain imaging studies that are building a database on normal brain development in children. Scans of the normal structural and functional maturation of the brain will be compared with those from individuals with autism, speeding up development of targeted treatments and evaluations of their effects.
 
Yet even the most advanced scanners cannot substitute for post-mortem brain tissue. Brain banks are working with families to arrange for tissue donation following the deaths of individuals with autism.
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