A network of five leading medical centers, led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital, has received a five-year, $12.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to learn more about how autism develops.

The study, headed by Darcy Krueger, MD, PhD, will enroll 150 children under the age of 3 who have tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare genetic disease that causes autism or autism-like symptoms in about 50 percent of cases.

TSC can be diagnosed even before birth, making it possible to observe how the brain’s circuitry develops before autism becomes apparent. Through the newly formed TSC Autism Center of Excellence Research Network (TACERN), and in close collaboration with the national Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, researchers will track infants diagnosed with TSC using advanced brain imaging techniques.

Also participating in the study are the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.