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Six Autism Speaks studies on 2018 list of top advances in autism

Focus on transition to adulthood and genetics reflects priority research goals

April 26, 2019 (NEW YORK) – A federal autism panel this month released its selections of the top 20 advances in autism research for 2018, the 2018 IACC Top Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorder Research.

Six of the studies were funded by Autism Speaks’ science program, which provides direct grant funding and administers the Autism Treatment Network (ATN).

Studies are selected by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a federal advisory committee of officials from agencies that work in autism research and services, covering a range of topics from biology and genetics to treatments and health policy.  

Findings on the list spanned a range of research topics and help our understanding of autism, including:

  • Sensory behaviors linked to autism are present in children as young as 12 months.
  • Emotional regulation in people with autism may be related to differences in how the amygdala, an emotional center in the brain, changes from childhood into adulthood.
  • Genes linked to autism may affect how neurons function and communicate in individuals with ASD.
  • Changes in gene expression strongly linked to autism were passed to children by their fathers in a small subset of individuals with autism.
  • Teens and young adults with autism need continued health care follow-ups and screenings with adult health providers because they are more likely than typical adults to have medical and psychiatric conditions in addition to autism.
  • Adults with autism who live at home with a caregiver are less likely to get services they need than those living independently or in a supported living facility. Helping caregivers learn about available services may be one way to reduce care gaps for adults with autism living at home.

“The studies we funded that were selected by IACC reflect our mission to better understand the causes of autism as well as see breakthroughs that can help families right now, in particular families who have children that are aging out of pediatric health care,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Tom Frazier. “We are incredibly proud of these advances and grateful for the work of our volunteers and donors who made them possible.”

IACC selects its annual list of advances as part of its mandate by the Autism CARES Act of 2014 to improve coordination and communication about autism in partnership with the autism community.

For more information about the IACC’s publications and activities, visit

Studies from the IACC selections that were funded by Autism Speaks:

Understanding Service Usage and Needs for Adults with ASD: The Importance of Living Situation.

Dudley KM, Klinger MR, Meyer A, Powell P, Klinger LG. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Aug 25.  [Autism Speaks research grant 8316]

Psychiatric and Medical Conditions in Transition-Aged Individuals With ASD. Davignon MN, Qian Y, Massolo M, Croen LA. Pediatrics. 2018 Apr;141(Suppl 4):S335-S345. [Autism Speaks research grant 9749]

Complete Disruption of Autism-Susceptibility Genes by Gene Editing Predominantly Reduces Functional Connectivity of Isogenic Human Neurons. Deneault E, White SH, Rodrigues DC, Ross PJ, Faheem M, Zaslavsky K, Wang Z, Alexandrova R, Pellecchia G, Wei W, Piekna A, Kaur G, Howe JL, Kwan V, Thiruvahindrapuram B, Walker S, Lionel AC, Pasceri P, Merico D, Yuen RKC, Singh KK, Ellis J, Scherer SW. Stem Cell Reports. 2018 Nov 13;11(5):1211-1225. [Autism Speaks MSSNG project]

A longitudinal study of parent-reported sensory responsiveness in toddlers at-risk for autism.

Wolff JJ, Dimian AF, Botteron KN, Dager SR, Elison JT, Estes AM, Hazlett HC, Schultz RT, Zwaigenbaum L, Piven J, IBIS Network. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2019 Mar;60(3):314-324. Epub 2018 Oct 23.  [Autism Speaks grant 6020]

Neuron numbers increase in the human amygdala from birth to adulthood, but not in autism.

Avino TA, Barger N, Vargas MV, Carlson EL, Amaral DG, Bauman MD, Schumann CM,

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 3;115(14):3710-3715. Epub 2018 Mar 20. [Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Project, now Autism BrainNet]

Paternally inherited cis-regulatory structural variants are associated with autism.

Brandler WM, Antaki D, Gujral M, Kleiber ML, Whitney J, Maile MS, Hong O, Chapman TR, Tan S, Tandon P, Pang T, Tang SC, Vaux KK, Yang Y, Harrington E, Juul S, Turner DJ, Thiruvahindrapuram B, Kaur G, Wang Z, Kingsmore SF, Gleeson JG, Bisson D, Kakaradov B, Telenti A, Venter JC, Corominas R, Toma C, Cormand B, Rueda I, Guijarro S, Messer KS, Nievergelt CM, Arranz MJ, Courchesne E, Pierce K, Muotri AR, Iakoucheva LM, Hervas A, Scherer SW, Corsello C, Sebat J. Science. 2018 Apr 20;360(6386):327-331. [Autism Speaks MSSNG project]