Many recent research studies have focused on finding the earliest signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These studies aim to help doctors diagnose children at a younger age so they can get needed interventions as quickly as possible.
For example, one early sign of ASD may be increased head size or rapid head growth. Brain imaging studies have shown that abnormal brain development beginning in an infant's first months may have a role in ASD. This theory suggests that genetic defects in growth factors, which direct proper brain development, cause the brain abnormalities seen in autism. It's possible that an infant's sudden, rapid head growth may be an early warning signal, which could help in early diagnosis and treatment or possible prevention of ASD. Current studies on ASD treatment are exploring many approaches, such as:
- A computer-based training program designed to teach children with ASD how to create and respond to facial expressions appropriately
- A medication that may help improve functioning in children with Fragile X syndrome
- New social interventions that can be used in the classroom or other "everyday" settings
- An intervention parents can follow to reduce and prevent ASD-related disability in children at high risk for the disorder
More information about clinical trials on ASD funded by the National Institute of Mental Health is available on the website.
You can read about future research plans on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee's (IACC's) website . The IACC is made up of representatives of Federal agencies and members of the public and coordinates efforts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning ASD.
NIMH supports research studies on mental health and disorders. See also: A Participant's Guide to Mental Health Clinical Research.
Participate, refer a patient or learn about results of studies in ClinicalTrials.gov , the NIH/National Library of Medicine's registry of federally and privately funded clinical trials for all disease.
Find NIH-funded studies currently recruiting participants with ASD .