Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said the program was created in 2007 to begin an intense and coordinated research effort aimed at identifying the causes of autism spectrum disorders and finding new treatments.
"While progress in research on ASD has been rapid, complex questions remain about the causes of these disorders, how to detect them very early, and how to intervene most effectively," Insel said in a statement. "Centers receiving Autism Centers of Excellence funding have marshaled the interdisciplinary expertise and technical resources needed to move the science forward as quickly as possible."
Sally J. Rogers of the University of California, Davis MIND Institute, will conduct multi-site randomized clinical trials to provide information on what effects early intervention for young children with autism, and the number of hours per week have on children's development.
The two styles compared are naturalistic, play-oriented intervention versus adult-directed teaching.
A second study aims to determine whether toddlers who received early intervention in a previous clinical trial show long-term benefits from the intervention. In an earlier trial, toddlers receiving the intervention showed major improvements in IQ, language, adaptive behavior and severity of their diagnosis over the two-year study period.
Dr. Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, Autism Centers of Excellence, will build on the network's earlier work identifying genetic variants associated with autism susceptibility by recruiting at least 600 African-American families with a child with an Autism Center of Excellence.