The University of Edinburgh has announced a £20 million ($24.5 million) grant from the Simons Foundation in support of pioneering studies into the biological mechanisms that underpin changes in brain development associated with autism.
The Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain will be based at the university's Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome, and Intellectual Disabilities. According to researchers at the center, the investment could lead to new treatments for people with autism spectrum disorders.
To that end, researchers will use advanced techniques to probe brain development in the presence of DNA changes known to cause autism and investigate how variations in the wiring of the brain can affect the way the brain processes information. The funds also will make it possible for brain scientists to work more closely with clinical teams that care for children and their families and will facilitate the development and testing of new therapies for autism.
"This is an amazing opportunity to bring together a range of scientific and clinical expertise at the university with the aim of understanding how the brain develops on multiple levels, including molecular biology, neural circuitry, genetics, behavior, and cognition," said Peter Kind, the initiative’s director. "By combining these approaches, we will learn how a healthy brain matures and gain valuable insights into the developmental origins of autism. Using this knowledge, we aim to deliver new diagnostic tools, better therapeutics, and new interventions to the clinic that will address the causes and consequences of autism."