UNC research studies make list of top 20 autism advances

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 — Several autism studies by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers are ranked on a new list of the most important recent scientific advances related to the condition.

Several autism studies by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers are ranked on a new list of the most important recent scientific advances related to the condition.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory body, released its annual list of top 20 scientific advances in autism spectrum disorder research. The committee described the discoveries as representing significant steps forward in understanding autism and improving affected individuals and families’ quality of life.

Studies on the 2010 list include advances in the early diagnosis of autism, understanding of the disorder’s complex biology and identifying effective treatments and services.

Two of the four studies listed in the effective treatments section of the list were led by Sam Odom, Ph.D, director of the FPG Child Development Institute and professor in the School of Education. Another study was led by Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., research professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and chief science officer for Autism Speaks, an international research and advocacy organization.

Dawson and Joseph Piven, M.D., director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, also co-authored a study ranked among the top advances related to identifying the disorder’s genetic causes. Piven also is Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and a fellow at the FPG Institute.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that leads to difficulty with social interaction and communication skills and may include repetitive behaviors or interests. It affects about 1 percent of children in the United States and millions more internationally.

For details on the top 20 list, see http://iacc.hhs.gov/summary-advances/2010/index.shtml.

For more on UNC autism research and initiatives, see http://www.med.unc.edu/www/news/2011/march/unc-researchers-unravel-clues-develop-interventions-for-autism

News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962-8596, patric_lane@unc.edu

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