NIH Press Release
National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development

Friday, May 30, 1997

Robert Bock
(301) 496-5133

NIH Launches International Network on Biology and Brain Development in Autism

Two institutes of the National Institutes of Health announced that they will put in place a five year, $27 million, international collaborative network to study the neurobiology and genetics of autism.

Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and James B. Snow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) said that their Institutes will lead the effort.

"This is the largest commitment to a single autism research venture in history," Dr. Alexander said. "Autism is a major pediatric health problem in the United States, with health care costs exceeding $13 billion per year."

According to Dr. James B. Snow, "For individuals with autism and their families, we have recent technological advances that create unprecedented opportunities in research in the neurobiology and genetics of autism."

Current research findings suggest that there is a strong genetic basis for autism. Autism apparently originates during the early stages of brain development and results in severe problems in communication, social interaction, and in repetitive, sometimes bizarre, actions and interests. The causes of this disorder are uncertain, and there is no biological test to confirm its diagnosis. This autism research network will combine scientists at 24 universities with families in 13 states and in Canada, Britain, France, and Germany to study the causes, including genetics, the underlying biological mechanisms, and the developmental course of autism, Dr. Alexander added. The effort is co-funded by NICHD and NIDCD, with additional funds provided by the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director and Office of Alternative Medicine.

The network came about as a result of a Congressionally mandated conference on the State of the Science in Autism, which took place in April, 1995, to identify gaps in the knowledge of autism and directions for future research.

"This network will begin to make the research recommendations from the NIH conference a reality," said Dr. Marie Bristol, coordinator of the NIH conference and the Autism network. "The collaborative project responds to a request from Congress for more research on autism."

Dr. Bristol added that the network will bring together premier researchers in autism and outstanding scientists who have never before worked in autism research to find out how the disorder develops.

NICHD/NIDCD Collaborative Network
Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism

Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Department of Psychology
Box 351525
Seattle, WA 98195
Tel: 206- 543-1051
Fax: 206-685-3157
Marian Sigman, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
760 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90024-1759
Tel: 310-825-0180
Fax: 310-825-2682
Michelle A. Dunn, Ph.D.
Department of Neurobiology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, NY 10461
Tel: 718- 430-2459
Fax: 718-430-8785
Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D.
Behavioral Sciences Division
Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center
Waltham, MA 02254
Tel: 617-642-0181
Fax: 617-642-0185
Nancy J. Minshew, M.D.
Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic
3811 O'Hara Street
430 Bellfield Towers
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Tel: 412-624-0818/0819
Fax: 412-624-0930
Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.
Yale Child Study Center
230 South Frontage Road
PO Box 207900
New Haven, CT 06520-7900
Tel: 203-785-2510
Fax: 203-737-4197
Patricia M. Rodier, Ph.D.
University of Rochester Medical Center
Department of OB/GYN, Box 668
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, New York, 19642
Tel: 716-275-2582
Fax: 716-244-2209
Reed Warren, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Can be reached at:
UMC 6895
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84332
Tel: 801-797-1924
Fax: 801-797-2044
Sally J. Rogers, Ph.D.
UCHSC Box B-148
4200 East 9th
Denver, CO 80262
Tel: 303-871-4403
Fax: 303-315-5641