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2004 NAAR Grants Funded

In 2005, NAAR committed $8.3 million to fund 41 pilot studies, 14 pre- and 7 post-doctoral fellowships as well as three large collaborative programs: the NAAR Autism Genome Project, the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Project and the Autism Tissue Program. In addition, NAAR's 2005 research commitments include the ongoing support of two interdisciplinary autism training programs that are being co-sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. NAAR's 2005 research awards are the largest single-year commitment to biomedical autism research ever made by a non-governmental organization and are funding pilot studies and fellowships in the U.S., Canada and England.


Collaborative Projects & Programs

NAAR Autism Genome Project
In 2005, NAAR committed $1.3 million towards the NAAR Autism Genome Project, an NIH partnership that is the largest research collaboration ever to focus on the genetics of the disorder. The NAAR Autism Genome Project will map the human genome in the search for autism susceptibility genes - the genes responsible for the inherited risk for autism. A public/private research partnership, this collaboration includes approximately 170 of the world's leading genetic researchers from 50 academic and research institutions that have pooled their DNA samples in a collaborative effort.

High Risk Baby Siblings Research Project
Together with NICHD, NAAR continues it's support of the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Project, launched last year. Researchers participating in this collaboration are working to distinguish children that have different developmental trajectories so clinicians can apply the most appropriate standards to an early diagnostic evaluation and, eventually, to developing specific interventions. This year, the consortium was expanded to include new members who bring unique expertise such as child language development that they will share with other members of the collaboration.

Autism Tissue Program
NAAR has committed $520,000 in 2005 towards the ongoing expansion of the Autism Tissue Program, a parent-led brain tissue donation program dedicated to autism research and jointly supported by the NIH. The program makes post-mortem brain tissue available to as many qualified scientists as possible who are focused on autism research. NAAR established and first funded the Autism Tissue Program in 1998 and has provided valuable research tissue to over 30 researchers throughout the US and Europe.

2005 Research and Fellowship Awards


Pilot Studies

Matthew Anderson, M.D., Ph.D.
Beth Israel Medical Center / Harvard Medical School
Modeling Human Neuroligin-3 Autism in Mice
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Michal Assaf, M.D.
Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center / IOL / Yale School of Medicine
Neuronal Correlates of Implicit Social Interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Functional MRI Study
Two-Year Award: $118,968

David Beversdorf, M.D.
The Ohio State University Research Foundation
Pharmacological Modulation of Functional Connectivity in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Two-Year Award: $113,740

John Constantino, M.D.
Washington University School of Medicine
Replication of Quantitative Linkage Findings in a New Sample of Genotyped (but Not Yet Phenotyped) Autism Pedigrees
One-Year Award: $60,000

Joshua Corbin, Ph.D.
Georgetown University
Genetic and cellular basis of amygdala development
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Richard Courtemanche, Ph.D.
Concordia University
Dynamic network activity in the cerebellum for expectancy: normal and abnormal networks based on neurochemistry
Two-Year Award: $100,342

Kim Dalton, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin
Multisensory integration of visual and vocal emotional cues in autism: A brain fMRI study
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Guido Gerig, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Quantitative white matter analysis of early brain development in Autism
Two-Year Award: $119,780
Research Partner: The Blowitz-Ridgeway Foundation

Roy Grinker, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
The Prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Korean School-Aged Children
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Jana Iverson, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
Early identification of autism: Developmental trajectories in communicative and motor skills in siblings of children with autism
Two-Year Award: $119,940

Andrea Jackowski, Ph.D.
Yale University - Child Study Center
Brain morphometry in newborns at risk for autism: an MRI study
Two-Year Award: $118,360

Daniel Levitin, Ph.D.
McGill University, Canada
Quantifying the extent of emotional processing in autism: Converging evidence from music processing and central coherence theory
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Ludise Malkova, Ph.D.
Georgetown University
Socioemotional dysfunction and midbrain-amygdala circuitry
Two-Year Award: $119,900

Beth Malow, M.D., M.S.
Vanderbilt University
Defining the Physiological and Behavioral Components of Insomnia in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Two-Year Award: $116,440

Peter McCaffery, Ph.D.
UMMS/E. K. Shriver Center
Disruption of Organization of the Cerebral Cortex by Retinoic Acid
Two-Year Award: $119,207

James Millonig, Ph.D.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ
Genetic and functional analysis of ENGRAILED 2, a cerebellar patterning gene
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Sacha Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.
Brandeis University
Cortical circuit abnormalities in mouse models of Rett Syndrome
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Autism, Autoimmunity and the Environment
Two-Year Award: $113,822

Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Autism risk and exposures/biomarkers measured during the pre-, peri-, and neonatal periods: a baby sibs pilot investigation
Two-Year Award: $119,953

Antonio Persico, M.D.
Univ. Campus Bio-Medico, Lab of Mol Psychiatry & Neurogenetics
Addressing the Pathophysiology of Endophenotypes in Autism: Megalencephaly, Hyperserotoninemia, and Pepitiduria
One-Year Award: $60,000

Samuel Pleasure, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California San Francisco
Chemotactic Regulation of Cajal-Retzius Cell Migration
Two-Year Award: $119,592

Douglas Portman, Ph.D.
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Genetic control of sexual dimorphism in the nervous system: a nematode model for genetic mechanisms in autism
Two-Year Award: $110,649

Vijaya Ramesh, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital
Pam as a Candidate Gene for Autism
Two-Year Award: $120,000
2005 Roland D. Ciaranello, M.D. Memorial Award in Basic Research

James Rand, Ph.D.
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Neuroligin-Mediated Synaptogenesis
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Payam Rezaie, Ph.D.
Open University, United Kingdom
Examining alterations in cortical neuronal subpopulations and synaptic proteins in autism
Two-Year Award: $119,900.00

Timothy Roberts, Ph.D.
Children's Hospital/University of Toronto
Electrophysiological Signatures: An Intermediate Phenotype for Autism
Two-Year Award: $149,473.00
Named in honor of NAAR's 2005 Scientific Service Award recipient,
Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom


Diana Robins, Ph.D.
Georgia State University
Perception of Emotional Cues from Facial Expression and Affective Prosody using fMRI
Two-Year Award: $119,779

Gary Rudnick, Ph.D.
Yale University School of Medicine
Mutation associated with Asperger's Syndrome - Effect on Amine Transporter Regulation
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Mirjana Savatic, M.D., Ph.D
Stony Brook University
Nitric oxide and synaptic plasticity: implications for autism
Two-Year Award: $118,800

Christoph Schmitz, M.D.
Maastricht University, Netherlands
Cytoarchitectural alterations in the cerebral cortex in autism
Two-Year Award: $120,000
Research Partner: Autism Coalition for Research and Education

Harvey Singer, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Autoimmune Abnormalities in Autism: A Family Study
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Latha Soorya, Ph.D.
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
Mediators of Motor Skills in Adolescents & Adults with ASD
Two-Year Award: $83,104

Flora Vaccarino, Ph.D.
Yale University
Molecular mechanisms of cerebral cortical overgrowth
Two-Year Award: $119,276

Linda Van Aelst, Ph.D.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Role of the X-Linked Mental Retardation Protein Oligophrenin-1 in Neuronal Development and Function
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Robert Vogt, Ph.D.
Newborn Screening Branch, Centers for Disease Control
Immune Biomarkers in Serum and Newborn Dried Blood Spots
Two-Year Award: $118,800

George Wagner, Ph.D.
Rutgers University
Animal Model of autism Using Engrailed2 Knockout Mice
Two-Year Award: $98,880

Sara Webb, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Linking Cerebellar Pathology to Functioning in Individuals with Autism: Implications for Translational Research
Two-Year Award: $119,637

John Welsh, Ph.D.
Oregon Health & Science University
Electrophysiological Signatures: An Intermediate Phenotype for Autism
Two-Year Award: $150,000
Named in honor of NAAR's 2005 Scientific Service Award recipient,
Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom


Patricia Whitaker-Azmitia, Ph.D.
SUNY at Stony Brook
Serotonin, Oxytocin and Social Behaviors
Two-Year Award: $120,000

Donald Wilson, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
Functional Consequences of Sensory Gating Deficits
Two-Year Award: $117,135

Nurit Yirmiya, Ph.D.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The development of siblings of children with autism at age 7 years
Two-Year Award: $107,800

Pre-Doctoral Fellowships

Mentor: Claudia Bagni, Ph.D.
Fellow: Caroline Lacoux
University of Rome "Tor Vergata" Fondazione Santa Lucia, IRCCS, Rome
Molecular Studies of the ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder)

Mentor: Alice Carter, Ph.D.
Fellow: Chantal (Jennifer) Kuhn
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Parental Autism-related Cognitions and Maternal Synchrony

Mentor: Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D.
Fellow: Raphael Bernier
University of Washington
Role of mirror neurons in the imitation deficits in autism

Mentor: Darragh Devine, Ph.D.
Fellow: Amber Muehlmann
University of Florida
Self-Injurious Behavior: Pharmacotherapy in an Animal Model

Mentor: Margaret Fahnestock, Ph.D.
Fellow: Lisa Lagrou
McMaster University
Mechanism of Neurotransmitter Dysregulation in Autism

Mentor: Janine LaSalle, Ph.D.
Fellow: Sailaja Peddada
University of California, Davis School of Medicine
Investigation of Novel MeCP2 Target Genes Regulating Neuronal Maturation in Autism-Spectrum Disorders

Mentor: Joseph Piven, M.D.
Fellow: Matt Mosconi
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Social Perception in Young Children with Autism

Mentor: Peter Scheiffele, Ph.D.
Fellow: Ben Cheh
Columbia University
Consequences of neuroligin mutations on synapse formation and behavior

Mentor: Mark Strauss, Ph.D.
Fellow: Keiran Rump
University of Pittsburgh
The Recognition of Emotional Expression by Children and Adults with Autism

Mentor: Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D.
Fellow: Kristen Lindgren
Boston University
Behavioral and Brain Imaging Studies of Verbal/Non-Verbal Integration in Autism

Mentor: Chandan Vaidya, Ph.D
Fellow: Kelley Anne Barnes
Georgetown University.
fMRI of implicit learning in childhood Autism

Mentor: George Wagner, Ph.D.
Fellow: Michele Cheh
Rutgers University
Animal Model of Autism Using Engrailed2 Knockout Mice

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

Mentor: Jane Adams, Ph.D.
Fellow: Jennifer Gaven, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Early Markers of Autism and Social-Cognitive Processing in Infants Exposed to Valproic Acid during Prenatal Development

Mentor: Dorothy Bishop, D.Phil.
Fellow: Andrew Whitehouse Ph.D.
University of Oxford
Electrophysiological and behavioral studies of phonological short-term memory: a comparison with SLI

Mentor: Pat Mirenda, Ph.D.
Fellow: Karen Bopp, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia
Relationships Between Prelinguistic Communicative Behaviors and Early Intervention Outcomes in Youn Children with Autism

Mentor: Samuel Pleasure, M.D., Ph.D.
Fellow: Jennifer Lynn Freese, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
The Role of Frizzled9 in Hippocampal and Cortical Development

Mentor: John Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D.
Fellow: Ugo Borello, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Role of the Fgf and Wnt genes in the development of the cerebral cortex

Mentor: Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D.
Fellow: Ruth Grossman, Ph.D.
Boston University
Functional Connectivity of Language Areas in Autism and Specific Language Impairment

Mentor: Rita Valentino, Ph.D.
Fellow: Steven Leiser, Ph.D.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Sensory Response Dysregulation

Mentor: Christopher Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.
Fellow: Seung-Yun Yoo, Ph.D.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, HHMI
Identification of gene(s) involved in autosomal recessive autism

Mentor: Stephanie White, Ph.D.
Fellow: Julie Miller, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Molecular targets for socially-learned vocalization