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NAAR Commits Nearly $5 million to Research in 2003 !!!

2003 Research Awards Include 35 Pilot Studies & 15 Mentor-based Fellowships & Training Programs
April 23, 2007

PRINCETON, NJ - The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) has recently committed nearly $5 million to fund 50 research grants and fellowships in the U.S., Canada and Europe focusing on a wide range of disciplines, including the neurosciences, language and communication, behavioral sciences, genetics and epidemiology.

The NAAR Board of Trustees approved this year's funding commitment following the seventh annual meeting of the organization's Scientific Advisory Board. NAAR's 2003 research commitment totals $4.92 million and will fund 35 pilot studies, 13 pre- and post-doctoral fellowships and two training programs.

“This year, we received a total of 170 requests for funding, which represents an 75% increase in the amount of total requests we received compared to last year,” said Andy Shih, Ph.D., director of Research and Programs at NAAR. “It is encouraging to see that the scientific community is recognizing NAAR as a resourceful partner for the development of world class autism research projects.”

NAAR-funded pilot studies and fellowships have proven to be a sound investment. To date, research initially funded by NAAR has made a dramatic impact on the autism research landscape in North America and Europe and has been leveraged to attract more than $37 million in autism research awards by the National Institutes of Health and other governmental sources.

NAAR's 2003 research commitment represents an increase of approximately $800,000 over last year's commitment. NAAR funds autism research projects based on the recommendations of its prestigious Scientific Advisory Board and its Lay Review Committee.

NAAR has been able to again increase its funding commitment to autism research due to the remarkable support of its donors and the amazing success of its Walk F.A.R. for NAAR autism research walkathons and the dedicated volunteers who bring these events to life.

“We are thrilled to announce our 2003 research awards and are grateful to the ever-growing number of supporters who dedicate their talents and resources to our organization,” said NAAR President Prisca Chen Marvin. “We remain committed to accelerating the pace of research and elevating the caliber of the science, as it represents the best hope for our loved ones and for future generations.”

Including the 2003 research awards, NAAR has now committed $14.9 million to directly fund 169 research grants and fellowships worldwide - more than any other non-governmental organization in the U.S.

2003 Research Awards

Pilot Studies: $3.92 million

Susan Birren, Ph.D.,Brandeis University (Waltham, MA): Regulation of Cortical Synaptogenesis by Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons. Two-year award - $120,000

Patrick Bolton, Ph.D.,The Institute of Psychiatry at King's College (London, England): Speech & Language Impairments and Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Twin Study of the Links. Two-year award - $119,083

Patrick Bolton, Ph.D.,The Institute of Psychiatry at King's College (London, England): Event Related Potential & Behavioral Investigations of Face Processing in Individuals with Tuberous Sclerosis and Autism. Two-year award - $113,011

Kenneth Campbell, Ph.D.,Children's Hospital Research Foundation (Cincinnati, OH): Genetic Control of Mammalian Amygdalar Development.Two-year award - $120,000

Alice Carter, Ph.D.,University of Massachusetts (Boston, MA): Maternal Sensitivity, Joint Attention and Gains in Language Acquisition in Toddlers Diagnosed with Autism. Two-year award - $103,096

Manuel Casanova, M.D.,Medical College of Georgia (Augusta, GA): Macroscopic Correlates of Minicolumnar Abnormalities in Autism. Two-year award - $120,000

Susan Christian, Ph.D.,University of Chicago (Chicago, IL): Identifying Small Chromosomal Rearrangements in Autism Using Microarrays. Two-year award - $118,845

Antonio Convit, M.D.,New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY): Social Cognition and Brain Volumes in Asperger Syndrome. Two-year award - $112,900

Thomas Cook, Ph.D.,Rutgers University (Piscataway, NJ): Placental Metabolism & Fatty Acid Homeostasis in Fetal Imprinting of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Two-year award - $120,000

Michael Cuccaro, Ph.D.,Duke University Medical Center (Durham, NC): Retrospective Association Analysis of Children with Idiopathic Autism Spectrum Disorders Treated with Fluoxetine. Two-year award - $109,703

Mirella Dapretto, Ph.D.,University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA): Language & Prosody in Autism: Evidence from fMRI. Two-year award - $120,000

Michelle Dunn, Ph.D.,Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY): Understanding Cortical Auditory Processing Abnormalities in Children with Autism. Two-year award - $119,912

Michelle Dunn, Ph.D.,Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY): Mapping Lexical Organization in Children with Autism. Two-year award - $119,912

Nicole Gage, Ph.D.,University of California at Irvine (Irvine, CA): MEG Investigations of Cortical Auditory Processing in Children with Autism. Two-year award - $109,788

H. Hill Goldsmith, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin at Madison (Madison, WI): A Birth Register-based Twin Study of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Two-year award - $118,910

Eli Hatchwell, Ph.D.,Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, NY): Genomic Copy Number Variation in Autism. One-year award - $60,000

Karl Herrup, Ph.D.,Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH): The Engrailed-2 Mutant as a Model of the Neuropathology of Autism. Two-year award - $120,000

Laura Hewitson, Ph.D.,University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA): Autism in Primates: Genetics vs Environment. Two-year award - $118,825

Jana Iverson, Ph.D. University of Missouri at Columbia (Columbia, MO): Early Identification of Autism: A Prospective Study. Two-year award - $119,861

Russell Margolis, M.D.,Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Baltimore, MD): Genetic Mutations Associated with Autism in Unexplored Regions of FOXP2. One-year award - $56,063

James Millonig, Ph.D.,University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (Piscataway, NJ): Studying Mouse Cerebellar Development as a Tool to Identify Autism Susceptibility Genes. Two-year award - $120,000

Sherie Novotny, M.D.,Mt. Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY): Galantamine vs Placebo in Childhood & Adolescent Autism. Two-year award - $118,526

Payam Rezaie, Ph.D.,The Open University (Milton Keynes, England): Assessment of the Glial Response Within the Cerebral Cortex in Autism. Two-year award - $119,973

Timothy Roberts, Ph.D. University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario): MEG Correlates of Linguistic Processing at and Below the Word Level in Autism. Two-year award - $119,918

Peter Scheiffele, Ph.D.,Columbia University (New York, NY): Frequency & Functional Characterization of Neuroligin Mutations. Two-year award - $119,998

Stephen Sheinkopf, Ph.D.,Brown Medical School (Providence, RI): Vagal Tone & Social Behaviors in Children with Autistic Disorder. Two-year award - $116,952

Elise Temple, Ph.D.,Cornell University (Ithaca, NY): Neural Mechanisms Underlying “Theory of Mind”: fMRI Studies of Normally Developing and Autistic Children. Two-year award - $112,916

Poul Thorsen, M.D., Ph.D.,NANEA at Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine/Aarhus University (Denmark): Exposure to Pharmaceuticals in Pregnancy & Development of Autistic Disorder. Two-year award - $118,454

Jochen Triesch, Ph.D.,University of California at San Diego (La Jolla, CA): The MESA Project: Modeling the Emergence of Shared Attention. Two-year award - $120,000

Michael Ullman, Ph.D.,Georgetown University (Washington, DC): Neurocognitive Correlates of Language in Autism. Two-year award - $118,575

John Welsh, Ph.D. Oregon Health & Science University (Portland, OR): Inferior Olive & Autism: Electrical Synapses, Neuronal Synchrony & Cognition. Two-year award - $101,639

Justin Williams, M.B.B.S., MSc,University of Aberdeen (Aberdeen, England): Functional Neuroimaging Studies of Action, Facial and Object-directed Imitation. Two-year award - $119,977

Peter Zandi, Ph.D.,Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (Baltimore, MD): Maternal-fetal Incompatibility and Autism Risk. One-year award - $59,998

Xiaoxi Zhuang, Ph.D.,University of Chicago (Chicago, IL): Behavioral Effects of Hyper- and Hypo-Serotonergic Function in Transgenic Mouse Models. Two-year award - $120,000

Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, M.D. McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario): Investigating the Emergence of Familial Traits in Autism. Two-year award - $120,000

Mentor-Based Fellowships & Autism Training Programs - $991,000


Cambridge University, London (England) - Mentor: Simon Baron Cohen, Ph.D.; Fellow: Christopher D. Ashwin, Ph.D. “Social Emotional Processing”

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI- Mentor: Jeffrey Hutsler, Ph.D.; Fellow: Hong Zhang, Ph.D. “Quantitative Neuroanatomical Training: New Methods to Reveal Structural Changes in the Cortex of Individuals with Autism”

University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA - Mentor: Michael Merzenich, Ph.D.; Fellow: Haruka Nakahara, Ph.D. “The Primary Auditory & Visual Cortex in Children with Autism and Animal Models”

University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ - Mentor: Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, M.D.; Fellow: Kristina Sennvik, Ph.D. “Neurodevelopmental Origins of Autism Brain Abnormalities”

Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT - Mentor: Paul Bloom, Ph.D.; Fellow: Melissa Allen Preissler, Ph.D. “Symbolic Understanding in Children with Autism”

Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY - Mentor: Carol Mason, M.D.; Fellow: Phillip Buttery, Ph.D. “Regulation of the Purkinje: Cell Dendritic Growth, Spine Formation and Synaptogenesis”

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN - Mentor: Wendy Stone, Ph.D.; Fellow: Lynnette M. Henderson, Ph.D. “Developing a Downward Extension of the STAT”


Centre for Molecular Medicine & Therapeutics, Vancouver, British Columbia - Mentor: Elizabeth Simpson, Ph.D.; Fellow: K.Y. Bibiana Wong “Mouse Models of Autism: Behavior and Genetics”

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN - Mentor: James Sutcliffe, Ph.D.; Fellow: Jacob McCauley “Genetic Analysis of Serotonergic and GABA-ergic Genes in Autism”

University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA - Mentor: Alice Carter, Ph.D.; Fellow: Chantal Jennifer Kuhn ”The Impact of Parental Autism-related Cognitions on Interventions”

Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD - Mentor: Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.; Fellow: Keely Cheslack-Postava “Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders”

Universidad Miguel Hernandez, San Juan de Alicante (Spain) - Mentor: Jorge J. Prieto, M.D., Ph.D.; Fellow: Edith Lopez Hurtado “Immuncytochemical and Morphometrical Analysis of Double Bouquet Cells Microcircuitry in the Cerebral Cortex of Autistic Patients”

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ - Mentor: Samuel Wang, Ph.D.; Fellow: Megan Sullivan “Multiphoton Investigation of Sensory Encoding in the Mammalian Cerebellum”


NAAR is collaborating with the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction to co-sponsor a pair of six-year, interdisciplinary autism training programs, known as the “Training Programs in Autism Research.”

NAAR will invest approximately $200,000 annually for six years as a co-sponsor of this unique program - the first of its kind in Canada to focus on autism.