Major autism study underway-Yale researchers leading the charge

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTMH) – A study that could transform the way autism is diagnosed, tracked and treated and the work is being done in New Haven.

Yale researchers are leading the charge in the four year study – the largest autism study funded by National Institutes of Health.

Images of brain activity are on the screen located on the desk of researcher Takumi McAllister, “These are the micro-voltages.”

It showcases the electrical activity of a child – taking part in Autism Biomarkers Consortium Study at the Yale Child Study Center.

McAllister points to the color blue, “That blueness is the target. We want it to be as blue as possible for everybody and we want to see what treatments are creating more blueness at that time and what’s not working out as well.”

A potential set of biomarkers, which could have a profound impact on a patient with Autism Spectrum Disorders, says principal investigator Dr. James McPartland, PhD, at Yale School of Medicine.

“What we want to understand is how can we scientifically determine which child is going to benefit from which treatment.”

Using science — instead of relying on subjective judgment.

“Targeted therapy, personalized medicine, that’s the idea,” says Dr. McPartland, “If we can figure out in a very specific way what’s going on with a specific person with autism, we can do much better figuring out how to help him.”

Patricia Ojeda’s 11 year old son, diagnosed with autism, is a study participant.

She says, “It’s important for me to know that I’m in the right track that we are getting all the services that he really needs.”

The family- already benefitting from a report provided by the study. They are now sharing with his school and other treatment providers.

“Some of the things that they actually suggested is stuff that we thought about doing but we were not sure if it was a good idea or not,” says Ojeda.

Children in the study are thoroughly evaluated for 24 weeks – being measured for their social behavior and communication. How the brain works as a unit – could be the key to advancing treatment in autism.

Dr. McPartland says, “If there is a person who wants to experience greater social success, if we could figure out ways to increase the effectiveness of the brain, we could make their lives better.”

Researchers are also collecting blood samples for DNA analyses. A treatment program can include, behavioral and occupational therapies, educational intervention and medication. They are looking for children between the ages of four and 11 to take part. Kids with autism as well as those who do not have the diagnosis.

Data collection is at five sites: Duke University, Boston Children’s Hospital, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Yale. For more information call 203-737-4586 or log onto www.asdbiomarkers.org

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