EU-AIMS at It Again: This Time Hopefully with a Drug Treatment for Autism!

One of the world’s largest research collaborations, EU-AIMS, has been working for years to enhance the autism field. This time, their goal is to scan hundreds of brains—both autistic and typical— using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to eventually develop a drug for autism.

The research team, made up of multiple research centers including the Institute of Psychiatry in London and Cambridge University, will scan the brains of 450 people with autism and 300 controls. The study is the first of its kind in its large scale, with the goal to capture “biological snapshots” by scanning the participants again two years later and create new effective treatments and diagnosing methods. The researchers are trying to diagnosis autism based on neurobiology, not just behavior.

Previous animal models of autism has led EU-AIM researchers to identify “a possible drug target on synapses – the connection between nerve cells – where a particular brain receptor was found to be produced in excess.” [1] Now, the goal is to translate these findings to clinical research with human participants.

The study is also using eye-tracking technology for their data, allowing the researchers to picture what life is like for someone with autism. As previous research has shown, people with autism tend to look at the eyes when presented with pictures of faces. At the end of the study, the data will be the most inclusive studies thus far in autism research, leading to better treatment methods.



[1] “The Guardian” Ambitious aims: the international push to understand and treat autism. 7 Aug 2013. Web. < http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/aug/07/ambitious-aims-international-push-treat-autism>

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