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A study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers using brain imaging of infants to examine changes in their brains and behavior that may mark the onset of autistic symptoms is being substantially expanded after receiving an additional $3.25 million in funding.
The Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS), which involves a network of universities, was originally awarded $10 million in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health as an Autism Center of Excellence under the project title “A Longitudinal MRI Study of Infants at Risk for Autism.”
The NIH recently awarded the project supplemental funding of $500,000 per year for five years and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative provided $150,000 a year for five years.
“This is the first study that will prospectively measure, in the same group of infants, both the onset of autistic symptoms and brain enlargement that may co-occur at the end of the first year of life in children with autism,” said Joseph Piven, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Piven is also Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and in the psychology department of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The study builds on two key findings from researchers involved in it. The first, from UNC researchers, is that children with autism have larger brains - from five to 10 percent larger at two years of age than children without autism - and retrospective head circumference data suggests this enlargement or overgrowth starts about the end of a child’s first year of life. The second finding, from behavioral researchers led by Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, M.D., from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is that the onset of the social deficits associated with autism does not occur until the end of the first year.
“Once these brain and behavioral changes are identified, potential benefits might include the development of early screening measures for autism and a better understanding of the underlying brain mechanisms, which we hope will lead to treatments to prevent or reduce the problems that individuals with autism face,” Piven said.
For the study, UNC heads a network of four data collection sites across the country: at UNC, the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington University in St. Louis and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The project also includes a data coordinating center at the Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada.
The study will enroll 544 infants, aged 6 and 12 months, whose older siblings are autistic. At the start, they will receive behavioral assessments and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. The six-month-olds will then be tested again at 12 and 24 months of age, while the 12-month-olds will be retested at 24 months.
Piven said the additional funding will allow researchers to examine all 544 children at all time points, instead of focusing only on those that are most likely to develop autism.
He also said he welcomed the somewhat novel public-private partnership arrangement for the additional funding between the NIH and an outside funding agency.
IBIS Network Web site: http://ibis-network.org/default.html
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A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted - and the trend shows no sign of abating. Published in the
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The American Medical Association journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has published a new study by researchers at Cornell University indicating evidence of an environmental trigger for autism among genetically vulnerable children. It is the first peer-reviewed study to positively associate the prevalence of autism to a factor related to the levels of precipitation
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Scientists have identified a relationship between two proteins in the brain that has links to both nicotine addiction and autism. The finding has led to speculation that existing drugs used to curb nicotine addiction might serve as the basis for potential therapies to alleviate the symptoms of autism. The discovery identified a defining role for
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