Our ASD Research

Autism, is one of several diagnoses that fall under the general category of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autism, perhaps the most severe and best known of the ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments affecting social interactions and communication, as well as the presence of odd or unusual behaviors often involving strong interests or repetitive patterns. It is a disorder with multiple genetic and non-genetic causes. Studies have implicated some environmental factors such as exposure to toxins, teratogens, perinatal damage and prenatal infections.

But twin and sibling studies also have demonstrated strong genetic factors involved in autism. Genome-wide screens in large families have suggested involvement of many genes in the causation of autism.

Researchers at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG) are conducting studies based on two lines of hypothesis, one involving numerous rare genetic mutations and the other involving fewer, but common genetic variation. In two recently published collaborative studies, HIHG researchers found evidence supporting the hypothesis that the complex genetic architecture of autism involves common variation.

By finding the genetic factors that cause autistic disorders, HIHG researchers hope to gain valuable insights into how autism develops in order to improve diagnostic and treatment approaches.