Yale researchers making headway in quest to solve autism’s mysteries

In just the past few weeks, Yale researchers have made strides in their efforts to increase understanding of autism. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, here is a look at those stories, as well as other key autism research findings over the years at Yale.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimates that 1 in 68 U.S. children are on the autism spectrum. For boys the number is even higher with 1 in 54 affected.  As the numbers climb, autism remains a frustrating mystery for families, clinicians, and researchers. 

Clinical study of autism
Clinical studies are among the tools Yale scientists are using in their effort to understand autism. (Photo by Robert A. Lisak)

The Yale Child Study Center and other departments at Yale have been in the vanguard of helping define and treat the disorder as well as offering clues to the genetic mechanisms that give rise to autism. 

Yale’s efforts to increase understanding of autism have made headlines. Here is a look at those stories, as well as other key autism research findings over the years at Yale.

Study shows connection between key autism risk genes in the human brain

A new study reveals an important connection between dozens of genes that may contribute to autism, a major step toward understanding how brain development goes awry in some individuals with the disorder.

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Outreach to Boy Scouts coincides with Yale autism class’ 30th anniversary

For Yale Child Study Center director and autism researcher Fred Volkmar, speaking at conferences and scientific meetings is a routine part of his busy schedule, but one recent invitation to speak held special significance.

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Harkness tower to be bathed in blue lights to raise awareness about autism

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Harkness Tower will glow bright blue on the evening of Wednesday, April 2 as part of the “Light It Up Blue” awareness campaign.

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Autism risk spotted at birth in abnormal placentas

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have figured out how to measure an infant’s risk of developing autism by looking for abnormalities in his/her placenta at birth, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment for the developmental disorder.

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New guidelines employ a team approach to autism diagnosis and care

Improving diagnosis and treatment for individuals with autism has been the focus of a growing body of research.

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Research in the news: Children ineligible under new autism criteria will likely receive alternative diagnosis

When a new diagnostic definition of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) went into effect in May 2013, many were concerned that fewer individuals would be diagnosed with ASD.

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Yale researchers spot attention deficits in babies who later develop autism

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine are able to detect deficits in social attention in infants as young as six months of age who later develop Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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Early treatment sparks striking brain changes in autism

When given early treatment, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) made significant improvements in behavior, communication, and most strikingly, brain function, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new study.

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Research in the News: Genetics of autism being revealed at rapid speed, say scientists

Yale geneticist Matthew State and neurobiologist Nenad Sestan say that researchers are now positioned to unravel the pathology underlying autism spectrum disorders and to identify new and more personalized approaches to its treatment.

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Studying sex differences in autism focus of $15 million NIH award to Yale center

The reasons autism spectrum disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls may be revealed, thanks to a five-year, $15 million National Institutes of Health grant to Yale School of Medicine for the Autism Centers of Excellence research program.

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Autism by the numbers (video)

Yale Child Study Center professor James McPartland explains why a wide autism spectrum may explain the CDC’s estimate that 1 in 88 U.S. children are autistic, and how new diagnosis criteria from the American Psychiatric Association might change the way the disorder is defined.

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Yale researchers examine impact of new diagnostic criteria

As the American Psychological Association prepares to update its diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders in 2013, autism diagnosis is expected to change for many children. Yale researchers look at the impact of new diagnostic criteria.

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Pinning down the genetics of autism

Yale researchers have found genetic mutations that contribute to autism, which could eventually help researchers pinpoint which genes are responsible for autism.

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Building robots to boost kids’ social skills

Yale researchers are building social robots with a $10 million grant that will one day be used to help all children, including those with autism, develop social skills.

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Training parents to combat autism behavior problems
Dressing struggle

Children with autism spectrum disorders who also have serious behavioral problems responded better to medication combined with training for parents than to treatment with medication alone, according to new research.

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Autism incidence grows worldwide
Autism in South Korea

Autism spectrum disorders affects 1 in 38 children in South Korea, according to research by Child Study Center professor Young-Shin Kim.

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Yale Child Study Center class expands knowledge of autism
Autism class

Students and professors discuss the impact of the Yale Seminar on Autism and Related Disorders.

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Key to early diagnosis of autism may be in the placenta

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have discovered in the placenta what may be the earliest marker for autism, possibly helping physicians diagnose the condition at birth, rather than the standard age of two or older.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222