In the autism community, we have observed an explosion in clinical research on autism, including the fields of developmental neurobiology, genetics, and psychopharmacology research. I will briefly outline some of the laws and research initiatives that have propelled autism research to the forefront of neurobehavioral science.
The Public Law 106-310 amendment [Children’s Health Act 2000] gave provisions to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand, intensify, and coordinate activities to conduct basic research on autism.
The Combating Autism Act of 2006 [Public Law 109-416] mandated the reestablishment of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to coordinate autism spectrum disorder (
In 2005, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), launched three major clinical studies on autism at its research program. One study seeks to identify differences in autistic children with diverse developmental histories. These studies strive to better define the subtypes within autism. In a second study, NIMH researchers will examine the use of the antibiotic minocycline to treat regressive autism. Minocycline has anti-inflammatory effects and has been helpful in some brain disorders such as Huntington’s disease. The third study seeks to address the treatment by chelation therapy, which seeks to remove heavy metals from the blood. This study was based on the belief that many cases of autism were caused by exposure to thimerosol, a mercury-based preservative previously used in childhood vaccines.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) created a research division, the Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP), which conducts research at the behavioral, cellular, and molecular levels. In addition, this division will investigate into the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major disease entities throughout the lifespan including autism. For instance, the Laboratory on Behavioral Neuroscience investigates the behavioral actions of brain neurotransmitters, receptors, and neuro-developmental genes, using rodent models of neuro-psychiatric diseases. Approaches include behavioral neuro-pharmacology and behavioral genetics. Currently, the NIMH supports more than 3,500 research grants and contracts to researchers at universities and other institutions across the country and overseas through its Division of Extramural Activities.