Laboratories at the Center for Integrative Brain Research are heavily involved in research working toward improving the lives of children with autism.  The Center has adopted a unique, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding neural mechanisms that underlie autism and the genetic bases of those mechanisms. A target goal is to identify novel brain-activity endophenotypes that can be related to the exceptional breadth of genetic variation of children with autism spectrum disorders. As we recognize that every child with an autism spectrum disorder is unique and presents with a distinct set of skills and challenges, our goal is to be able to apply an understanding of brain mechanisms to inform therapeutic strategies for each child.

CIBR Investigators:

  • Elizabeth Aylward, PhD
  • William Dobyns, MD
  • Robert Hevner, MD, PhD
  • Soo-Jeong Kim, MD
  • Kathleen Millen, PhD
  • Stephen E.P. Smith, PhD
  • Kyle Steinman, MD
  • John Welsh, PhD

Current Projects:

Eight laboratories at CIBR conduct research associated with  autism spectrum disorders.   The Millen laboratory is establishing whether there is overlap between genetic mutations that drive developmental abnormalities in the structure of the cerebellum and those underlying autism spectrum disorders.  The Hevner laboratory is establishing the importance of transcription factor genes that can be implicated in autism for the normal development of the cerebral cortex and its organization into functional units.  The Dobyns laboratory is examining the genetic overlap between autism spectrum disorders and other disorders that present with a similar range of intellectual impairments and their correlation with alterations in brain growth and structure.  The Aylward laboratory is examining how genetic abnormalities at a single chromosomal locus strongly correlated with autism are related to alterations in brain activation during cognition. The Welsh laboratory is establishing how defined alterations in brain physiology lead to behavioral impairments in learning as tested both in experimental animals and children with autism spectrum disorders.  The Kim lab is working on identifying underlying genetic factors for restricted repetitive behaviors commonly seen in children with autism as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, with a special emphasis on the chromosome 15q11-q13 region.  The Steinman lab is characterizing verbal and non-verbal semantic abilities of children with autism and specifically examining the learning ability of children having deletions and duplications of chromosomal loci 16p11.2 and 1q21.1. The Smith lab studies the molecular biology of the glutamate synapse, with a focus on the molecular mechanisms of autism.

The work of CIBR laboratories in autism spectrum disorders reaches out to a network of collaborators around the country, including Yale, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as our valued colleagues at the University of Washington Autism Center .  Support for CIBR research in autism spectrum disorders comes from the National Institutes of Health,  the Simons Foundation , and Autism Speaks.

Recent Publications in Autism click here

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