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UNC expands brain imaging study of infants at risk for autism
Date:11/26/2008

A study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers using brain imaging of infants to examine changes in their brains and behavior that may mark the onset of autistic symptoms is being substantially expanded after receiving an additional $3.25 million in funding.

The Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS), which involves a network of universities, was originally awarded $10 million in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health as an Autism Center of Excellence under the project title "A Longitudinal MRI Study of Infants at Risk for Autism."

The NIH recently awarded the project supplemental funding of $500,000 per year for five years and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative provided $150,000 a year for five years.

"This is the first study that will prospectively measure, in the same group of infants, both the onset of autistic symptoms and brain enlargement that may co-occur at the end of the first year of life in children with autism," said Joseph Piven, M.D., the study's principal investigator and director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Piven is also Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and in the psychology department of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The study builds on two key findings from researchers involved in it. The first, from UNC researchers, is that children with autism have larger brains from five to 10 percent larger at two years of age than children without autism and retrospective head circumference data suggests this enlargement or overgrowth starts about the end of a child's first year of life. The second finding, from behavioral researchers led by Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, M.D., from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is that the onset of the social deficits associated with autism does not occur until the end of the first year.

"Once these brain and behavioral changes are identified, potential bene
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Contact: Tom Hughes
tahughes@unch.unc.edu
919-966-6047
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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