The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
By Maia Szalavitz
February 17, 2014
Although scientists still don’t know exactly what causes autism, there is widespread agreement that the condition starts to unfold in the earliest moments of life — during fetal development and the first few months of infancy.
That’s why some autism researchers have high hopes for a new project, the First 1,000 Days of Life, which aims to follow at least 5,000 women and their babies through pregnancy and the first two years after birth.
This prospective design will allow the researchers to track changes as they happen, rather than having parents recall them later, which is subject to bias.
“We’re basically following these children through pediatric electronic health records as they mature,” says Joe Vockley, chief scientific officer at the Inova Translational Medicine Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, which is funding the $75 million project.
“It’s a wonderful model,” says Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, who is not involved in the project. Croen is helping lead two studies that are trying to track autism’s origins in early development.
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