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Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism Spectrum Disorders

This study is currently recruiting participants. (see Contacts and Locations)
Verified January 31, 2017 by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) ) Identifier:
First received: December 11, 2009
Last updated: April 20, 2017
Last verified: January 31, 2017


  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disorders that affect communication, social interaction, and behavior. Relatively little is known about the relationship between genetics and behavior among these individuals and their close relatives. Researchers are interested in using interviews and rating scales to better understand these issues, as well as collecting brain scan data and genetic samples for testing and comparison.
  • By comparing test results and genetic samples from healthy volunteers, people with ASD, and parents (or caregivers or legal guardians) of the first two groups, researchers hope to better understand the neuroscience of ASD.


  • To learn more about the brain in healthy people and in people with autism spectrum disorders.
  • To study genes that might be involved in autism spectrum disorders by collecting DNA samples from participants.


The following groups of participants will be eligible for the study:

  • Individuals between 5 and 89 years of age who have autism spectrum disorders.
  • Healthy volunteers between 5 and 89 years of age.
  • Cognitively impaired children between 5 and 17 years of age.
  • Parents/caregivers/legal guardians of individuals in the above three groups.


  • Participants will visit the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center for research tests, which will be administered over multiple visits. Researchers will determine the specific tests to be administered based on the medical history of the study participant.
  • Researchers will study the brain through interviews, tests of thinking and memory (neuropsychological tests), brain imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and magnetoencephalography (MEG).
  • The study will also collect blood or saliva to obtain a DNA sample.

Asperger's Disorder
Mental Retardation
Autism Spectrum Disorders

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Time Perspective: Other
Official Title: Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Group differences in brain structure, brain function, and cognitive functions, as well as their genetic associations.

Estimated Enrollment: 1600
Study Start Date: November 18, 2009
Detailed Description:

Objective: The primary objective of the proposed studies is to utilize neuroimaging (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging [fMRI], structural MRI [sMRI], Magnetoencephalography [MEG]) and neuropsychological tools (eye-tracking, cognitive experiments, clinical neuropsychological measures, questionnaires, etc.) to identify cognitive idiosyncrasies (e.g., social-cognitive deficits, visual perceptual assets, and savant skills) characteristic of individuals on the autism spectrum and their neural underpinnings across childhood and adulthood.

Study Population: Children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), controls (i.e., typically developing children, adolescents, and adults and those with mild to moderate mental retardation), as well as caregivers/legal guardians/parents of these individuals.

Design: Descriptive/Characterization/Observational studies using primarily neuropsychological and neuroimaging methodologies.

Outcome Measures: Behavioral (reaction time, accuracy, eye movements, etc.) and neuroimaging (brain morphometry, BOLD, electrophysiology, etc.).


Ages Eligible for Study:   5 Years to 89 Years   (Child, Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Subjects will include:

  1. males and females.
  2. 5-89 years of age.
  3. A minimum IQ of 70 if age 18 or older.
  4. A minimum IQ of 50 if ages 5-17.

Subjects in the ASD group will:

  1. meet DSM-IV criteria for one of the pervasive developmental disorders (i.e., autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified).
  2. meet or pass the autism cut-off score for social symptoms on the ADI and/or the ASD cut-off score from social+communication symptoms on the ADOS.


All subjects, except for savants, also will be excluded if they have:

  1. a history of neurological insult/injury.
  2. substantial prenatal drug exposure known to affect later brain and behavior (e.g., cocaine, alcohol).
  3. severely premature birth or birth trauma.
  4. severe medical disorder (e.g., neurofibromatosis, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, uncontrollable seizure disorder).
  5. a known genetic disorder (e.g., Fragile X or Down syndrome) that would be expected to significantly impact findings from cognitive testing and/or neuroimaging.

    Furthermore, subjects will be excluded from MRI/MEG studies, if they have:

  6. any exclusion from MRI scanning including: the presence of metal in their body, having a pacemaker, and/or females who are pregnant.

Healthy volunteers, except for parents of individuals with autism spectrum disorders, parents of healthy volunteers, and parents of children with cognitive impairments, will also be excluded if they have:

1. a current or past history of axis I psychiatric conditions or any current usage of psychiatric medication.

Savants have less restrictive exclusionary criteria. Those with tumors or other neuroimaging-relevant contraindications will be excluded from fMRI/MEG procedures.

  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01031407

Contact: Emily I White (301) 435-4928
Contact: Alex Martin, Ph.D. (301) 435-1926

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike Recruiting
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Contact: For more information at the NIH Clinical Center contact Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office (PRPL)    800-411-1222 ext TTY8664111010   
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Principal Investigator: Alex Martin, Ph.D. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  More Information

Additional Information:
Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Identifier: NCT01031407     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 100027
Study First Received: December 11, 2009
Last Updated: April 20, 2017

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Asperger Syndrome
Adolescents and Adults
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
Structural MRI
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autistic Disorder
Mental Retardation
Healthy Volunteer

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Asperger Syndrome
Autistic Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Child Development Disorders, Pervasive
Intellectual Disability
Pathologic Processes
Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Mental Disorders
Neurobehavioral Manifestations
Neurologic Manifestations
Nervous System Diseases
Signs and Symptoms processed this record on April 28, 2017