Since 2012, we have awarded over £1,300,000 towards research studies at the Autism Research Centre and towards the build of the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre in Cambridge.  This funding has led to over 36 high quality scientific articles contributing to the international effort to understand the causes of autism and to evaluate what helps. 

 

Read more about the research that has been published in Our Progress to September 2015

 

Some examples of projects that we have funded are:

Prenatal biomarkers

£112,000 for Autism Gene Sequencing

Funds have been awarded to perform ‘deep sequencing’ of some promising candidate genes for autism. In addition, the ARC has identified families with multiple children with autism and will conduct ‘whole genome’ scans of these family members, to reveal key genes for autism.

£32,000 for the Autism Hormone Project

Funds have been awarded to extend a previous project that identified elevated levels of the hormone androstenedione in people with autism. This hormone is one step before testosterone in the biochemical pathway and provides a strong clue for why brain development may differ in these patients and why autism may affect males more often than females (as males produce more of this hormone).

£19,000 for the Autism STEM-project

The ARC found that autism rates were higher in Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands known for its concentration of IT (information technology). The ARC is testing the prevalence rate of autism among children of employees in STEM jobs; and testing if this increase is associated with having two parents who work in STEM jobs, compared to either just one, or none.

Neonatal and early diagnosis

£70,000 for the Pilot Autism Early Brain Development Study

This project will map brain growth in the first year of life through MRI scanning and test infants who are at genetic high risk for autism. The study proposes to investigate early infant development to identify neural markers that may be predicative of a risk for autism by examining how early neural growth is related to behavioural traits and by testing if these characteristics are related to the development of autism.

£17,500 for GP Red Flags for Autism

There is frequently a significant delay between the point of first concern and an eventual diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition (ASC). This may be due to primary care providers not being sufficiently informed about the more subtle manifestations of ASC, such as Asperger Syndrome (AS). Funding has been awarded to provide tools to GPs to help identify children and adults who may require a specialist diagnostic assessment.

Intervention

£80,760 for MRI scanning following age-appropriate intervention

The ARC will conduct MRI scanning of people with autism following either the administration of oxytocin or the viewing of the DVD of The Transporters. It has already been found in behavioural studies that both these interventions lead to improvements in emotion recognition in people with autism. MRI scanning will show whether the social cognition/theory of mind/emotion recognition circuity in the brain, which is usually underactive in autism, returns to more normal levels.

£5,000 for the Oxytocin Project

Funds were awarded for a pilot study to evaluate the side-effects and benefits of the ‘social hormone’, oxytocin, by measuring both social and non-social skills whilst under the influence of oxytocin nasal spray.

Other

£105,000 for the Cambridge Autism Research Database

ART contributed over £100,000 to the support and re-design of the Cambridge Autism Research Database (CARD) .CARD enables multiple projects to run in parallel by storing the details of over 5000 people with autism or their parents who want to volunteer to take part in research.