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Four Scientific Workshops Convened January 15-18, 2008

Four one-day scientific workshops were held, each focusing on one ASD research domain: Biology, Treatment, Diagnosis, and Risk Factors. The workshops took place on successive days in order to encourage overlap between participants and to facilitate discussions at the interface of the workshop domains. Workshop participants included domestic and international scientific experts, representatives from private autism funding organizations and advocacy groups, clinicians, and individuals with ASD. IACC members had the option to nominate workshop participants as well as to observe or participate in the workshops.

To ensure thoughtful discussions, workshop participants reviewed research accomplishments and ongoing initiatives and resources for ASD research as reported by Federal agencies and private funding organizations. Workshop participants also received a comprehensive summary of the RFI responses related to their domain.

Workshop participants considered the strengths and weaknesses underlying the current state of the science and identified opportunities, unanswered questions, and research resources needed to find solutions. Throughout the workshops, participants discussed crosscutting themes of ASD heterogeneity and trajectories, and emphasized research activities with the greatest potential to improve the lives of individuals with ASD and their families.

Following extensive dialogue, the participants of the four workshops generated a total of 41 potential research opportunities using a uniform template. Each proposed research opportunity explains the need addressed, the proposed solution, whether the proposal included a new tool or a modification of an existing resource, the impact of achieving the objective, an evaluation plan, and a timeframe.

Workshop Domains

Biology: The underlying biological processes that lead to developmental and medical problems associated with ASD. Includes research in the neurosciences but is not confined to neurosciences. Research on other organ systems, interactions between organ systems, and/or other disease processes is included.
[Summary and Participant List]

Treatment: ASD treatment, intervention, and services research that aim to reduce symptoms, promote development, and improve outcomes. Topics include development and evaluation of medical, behavioral, educational, and complementary interventions for ASD. In addition, evaluation of treatment effectiveness in real world settings, disparities in ASD treatment among specific subpopulations, practice patterns in ASD programs and services, and their cost-effectiveness are all included.
[Summary and Participant List]

Diagnosis: The accurate and valid description and measurement of ASD (phenotype) at both the individual and population levels as well as the public health impact of ASD. In addition, this area concerns itself with the diversity of what constitutes ASD and the characteristics of the condition over the lifespan.
[Summary and Participant List]

Risk Factors: Factors that contribute to the risk of having an ASD at both the individual or population level. Includes genetic studies of clusters or sporadic occurrences of ASD, studies that focus on environmental factors, e.g. intrauterine events or exposure to toxins, which could lead to ASD, and the interaction between these factors that increase risk for ASD.
[Summary and Participant List]

Thomas R. Insel, MD
Chair
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee



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