Inflammation and neuromodulation in autism

Defining an immune-mediated subgroup

Autism is a condition that is widely known to be associated with a large amount of diversity in relation to behavioural traits, associated challenges, co-occurring conditions, and underlying biology. This diversity is referred to as ‘heterogeneity.’ Heterogeneity poses challenges when studying the usefulness of specific supports or when studying underlying biological processes in autistic populations, because these are believed to vary between subgroups on the spectrum.

To improve outcomes for children and adults on the autism spectrum, we need to understand which supports work best for different subgroups of autistic individuals. An important first step in this process is the identification of valid and reproducible subgroups in autistic populations. This project used biological samples and participant data from the Australian Autism Biobank to develop an understanding of the biological and immunological mechanisms underpinning autism with a view of identifying immune-mediated subgroups. Associations between these markers and autism phenotype, and the underlying mechanisms were investigated. Our study identified four subgroups of children on the autism spectrum within the Australian Autism Biobank. It is hoped that these subgroups will be predictive of differential developmental trajectories and outcomes, an understanding of which will guide targeted supports and services. 

Early Years
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Project Leader(s)
  • Alicia Montgomery, University of New South Wales
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