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IACC Selects Top 2012 Advances in Autism Research

April 10, 2013

On the occasion of Autism Awareness Month, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee announces 20 most-significant studies of 2012

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) has published its selection of the 20 most significant autism research studies of last year. The committee summarizes the importance of each study’s findings in 2012 IACC Summary of Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorder Research. (Download a free copy here.)  

“The IACC, along with the rest of the nation, recognizes the urgent needs of the autism community and presses on toward the goal of transformative scientific discoveries and enhanced services and supports that will make a difference in the lives of individuals and families living with ASD,” said IACC Chair Thomas Insel, M.D. Dr. Insel also directs the National Institute of Mental Health. The 20 studies represent only a small fraction of the year’s scientific advances in understanding and treating autism, he added.

”It is exciting to see the diversity of new discoveries that were made in the past year, especially the greater emphasis on autism treatments and adult services research, which have been relatively neglected areas in the past,” said IACC member and Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D.

In the area of autism risk, the IACC highlighted a study from Denmark suggesting that influenza and fever during pregnancy may increase the risk of ASD. The finding emphasizes the importance of flu shots among women of child-bearing age.

The IACC also selected several papers that examine the role of de novo genetic mutations. These mutations arise spontaneously in parents’ reproductive cells. (See “Hundreds of Tiny Mutations Linked to Autism” in Autism Speaks Top Ten 2012 report.)

In studies on interventions, the IACC highlighted the finding that 12 to 48 month-old children who completed the Early Start Denver Model program showed improvements in brain activity in response to social images such as faces. (See “Early Intervention Program Alters Brain Activity.”)

The committee also called attention to progress in understanding factors that affect health and safety. These included a study on wandering behavior in children with autism. (See “Study Confirms: Wandering Common and Scary.”)

In addition, the report highlights several studies drawing attention to areas of urgent need. These include the paucity of services to help teenagers and young adults transition to independent living, employment and higher education. (See “Mounting Evidence of Critical Need for Adult Transition Support.”)

For more information on the report and the IACC, visit www.iacc.hhs.gov.