Autism Science

Risperidone Use in Children with Autism Carries Heavy Risks

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
April 28, 2014

Risperidone, the first drug approved for children with autism and the most widely used, improves some children’s behavior but can have severe side effects, suggests an informal analysis of the drug’s use. These side effects can include weight gain, drowsiness, hormonal changes and, in rare cases, involuntary movements.

Autism: What We Know. What is Next?

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
May 1, 2014

This project begins a conversation concerning what we know and what we need to learn about autism and related developmental disorders. SFARI’s chief scientist, Gerald Fischbach, wrote the original draft, with the intent of providing an outline of recent research advances and suggestions about next steps. The document incorporates several different methodologies, ranging from molecular biology to behavior, in hopes of building bridges between them. We hope it will serve as a valuable resource for experts in autism research and also as a helpful guide for those just entering the field.

Neither the claims about what we know nor the questions raised are complete lists. Autism research is advancing rapidly. In our hopes that “What we know” will become a living document, we invite you to suggest additions, deletions, corrections or wholesale rearrangements. Please email your comments to And please check back for future iterations of this document as it expands and evolves.

The PDF version of this document can be found here. 

Autism Science Foundation Announces Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Recipients

Date Published: 
May 1, 2014

Nine new projects to be funded.


Contact: Casey Gold For Immediate Release
Email: May 1, 2014

Autism Science Foundation Announces
Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Recipients

Nine students to receive funds

(May 1, 2014 -- New York, NY)-- The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced the recipients of its first undergraduate summer research grants. Nine grants will be awarded to highly-accomplished undergraduate student/mentor teams conducting research in autism genetics, animal models, language development, vocational training evaluation, imaging, and treatment disparity.

“It’s critically important to develop the next generation of autism scientists and to provide early training to highly promising young scientists” said ASF president Alison Singer. “This was an extremely impressive group of applicants and we are proud to be able to support so many outstanding young researchers.” 

 “We developed this new funding mechanism so that ASF could help encourage the brightest young scientists to pursue a career in autism research” said ASF co-founder Karen London. “These students are paired with well-established mentors and will work on promising projects that will give them exceptional 'hands-on' experience and pave the way to their own autism research careers." 

In its five years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $1.6 million in grants including pre and postdoctoral fellowships, medical school gap year research fellowships, 3-year early career awards, treatment grants, undergraduate summer research funding, research enhancement mini-grants and travel scholarships to enable stakeholders to attend the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)

The following students were selected for summer 2014 funding:

Student: University:  Mentor:
Andrea Chu Boston University Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg
Jordan Doman University of Pittsburgh Dr. Carla Mazefsky
Molly Johnson University of Pennsylvania Dr. David Mandell 
Veronica Kang University of Washington, Seattle Dr. Sara Jane Webb
Cynthia Peng Rutgers University Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom
Jonathan Raduazzo Harvard University Dr. Christopher Cowan
Nicholas Ray Univ. of California at San Diego Dr. Inna Fishman
Sam Tomlinson Yale University Dr. James McPartland
Michelle Won University of Notre Dame Dr. Joshua Diehl









The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit


Contact Info:  
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation

Release of 2013 IACC Strategic Plan Update


The 2013 Strategic Plan Update provides an accounting and overview of the funding and scientific progress in the autism field since the release of the first IACC Strategic Plan in 2009. The 2013 Update describes recent advances in the scientific understanding of ASD, provides information on the progress of each of the 78 IACC Strategic Plan objectives, highlights areas of need and opportunity, and identifies overarching themes that will be important for future advancement of ASD research. In this final version, you will find a single, streamlined table for each Strategic Plan Question that displays both cumulative 5-year funding and notes regarding progress of each objective, which we thought would be helpful to readers.

The 2013 IACC Strategic Plan Update and related materials are available on the IACC website,

Convergence of Genes and Cellular Pathways Dysregulated in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Date Published: 
April 24, 2014

A substantial proportion of risk for developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) resides in genes that are part of specific, interconnected biological pathways, according to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who conducted a broad study of almost 2,500 families in the United States and throughout the world. The study was published in The American Journal of Human Genetics. The researchers reported numerous copy number variations (CNVS) affecting genes, and found that these genes are part of similar cellular pathways involved in brain development, synapse function and chromatin regulation. Individuals with ASD carried more of these CNVs than individuals in the control group, and some of them were inherited while others were only present in offspring with ASD.

SFARI's Wendy Chung at TED2014: What We Know About Autism

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
April 28, 2014

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative director of clinical research, Wendy Chung, addressed the TED2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada, on March 18, delivering a speech called What We Know About Autism.

The speech, geared toward a lay audience during Autism Awareness Month, is clear, informative and highly accessible, and addresses a host of current questions and concerns in the mind of the public: Is autism an epidemic? Do vaccines cause autism? What is the state of autism science? Are treatments on the horizon?

What We Know About Autism ends with a call to action, urging families impacted by autism to join the Interactive Autism Network, an online community of families that provides them with current information on autism resources and scientific advances. IAN also provides families with the opportunity to contribute to research and clinical trials directed by qualified scientists.

FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

Date Published: 
April 25, 2014

The FDA issued a warning today that several companies are making false or misleading claims about products or therapies that claim to treat or cure autism. The so-called treatments, such as “chelation” therapy or mineral treatments, carry significant risks, FDA says. Please be aware of the FDA's warning and follow their tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.

Repeats in Human DNA may Aggravate Autism Symptoms

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
April 21, 2014

Certain DNA repeats that increased exponentially during human evolution are directly related to the severity of autism symptoms, according to a preliminary study published in PLoS Genetics. The repeats each span 65 amino acids and are collectively referred to as DUF1220, for ‘domain of unknown function.’ There are six types of these repeats, each with a slightly different sequence and all of which diverged from a common ancestor.

International Meeting for Autism Research

May 14 2014
May 17 2014
America/New York
Start Date: 
May 14, 2014
Atlanta, GA
Meeting Schedule Overview:
May 14 - Opening Reception - 6:30 – 8:30 pm (offsite ticketed event)
May 15 - May 17 - Educational Sessions
Thursday, May 15, 2014 – 8:30 am – 7:00 pm
Friday, May 16, 2014 – 7:15 am – 7:00 pm  
Saturday, May 17, 2014 – 7:15 am – 3:30 pm
•This year the Opening Reception will be held on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 from 6:30-8:30 pm.   Educational sessions will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as in prior years.
•The program will include an increase in the number of scientific panel presentations and a decrease in the number of single oral sessions to offer more opportunities for in-depth discussions. We encourage our membership to start planning these group submissions now.
•Poster receptions will be hosted on Thursday and Friday evenings to decrease schedule conflicts with oral presentations.


Event Image: 

Atypical Cross Talk Between Mentalizing and Mirror Neuron Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

JAMA Psychiatry
Date Published: 
April 16, 2014

Atypical brain connectivity in areas that affect social interactions have been found in people with autism spectrum disorders. This difference in connectivity is found in networks of the brain that help individuals understand what others are thinking, and to understand others' actions and emotions. Up until now, it was thought that these areas of the brain were under-connected in people with autism, but this study shows that more often than not, they are actually over-connected. The study also found that the greater the difference in neural connectivity, the more social interactions were impaired.