MIND Institute

MIND Institute

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) research and treatment center affiliated with the University of California, Davis, with facilities located on the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento, California. The institute is a consortium of scientists, educators, physicians and parents who have joined together to unravel the mysteries of autism spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.


Parents of autistic children led the drive to raise funds for the cause, anticipating the institute could become the premiere autism research institute in the world. Among the parents behind the institute are Chuck and Sarah Gardner, whose son Chas has been diagnosed with autism. Chuck is a Sacramento area building contractor and co-founder of the institute along with his wife, Sarah, a television anchorwoman for Sacramento (KCRA 3).

The institute's largest contribution came from the California State Legislature, which provided $34 million to the institute for autism research. The efforts enabled construction of the institute's facility at the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento. After the major funding from the State, Rick Rollens, the former Secretary of the California State Senate and one of the leaders in the effort to create the institute, said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was funding genetic-oriented research into autism, and that the M.I.N.D. Institute was created by parents demanding that scientists look at other causes.

Interdisciplinary research teams

The M.I.N.D. Institute brings together experts in fields as diverse as molecular genetics and clinical pediatrics, using a multidisciplinary approach to treating and finding cures for neurodevelopmental disorders.

David G. Amaral, PhD, is the research director of the M.I.N.D. Institute and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Center for Neuroscience, a neuroscientist who studies the organization of memory systems in the brain. Sally Rogers, Ph.D. is a specialist in developmental psychology and professor of psychiatry and behavior science for the institute.

Prevalence study

In October, 2002, the institute released a study appearing to confirm that the prevalence of autism has risen steeply. The study was led by Dr. Robert Byrd, whose team gathered information on 684 children with developmental disabilities from California's Department of Developmental Services regional centers. Byrd's team's reported autism was on the rise in California, and that some of the increase was real and could not be explained by artificial factors such as misclassification and diagnostic criteria changes, nor by migration of children into California. [cite paper|author=Byrd RS, Sage AC, Keyzer J "et al."|publisher=M.I.N.D. Institute|title=Report to the legislature on the principal findings of the epidemiology of autism in California: a comprehensive pilot study|date=2002|url=http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/newsroom/study_final.pdf|accessdate=2006-09-18|format=PDF] However, a 2006 analysis found that special education data poorly measured prevalence because so many cases were undiagnosed, and that the 1994–2003 U.S. increase was associated with declines in other diagnostic categories, indicating that diagnostic substitution had occurred in the U.S. overall (though not in California in particular). [cite journal |journal=Pediatrics |date=2006 |volume=117 |issue=4 |pages=1028–37 |title= The contribution of diagnostic substitution to the growing administrative prevalence of autism in US special education |author= Shattuck PT |doi=10.1542/peds.2005-1516 |pmid=16585296 |url=http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/117/4/1028 |laysummary=http://www.news.wisc.edu/12368 |laydate=2006-04-03] The current consensus is that the rise in the number of autism cases is largely attributable to changes in diagnostic practices, referral patterns, availability of services, age at diagnosis, and public awareness, [cite journal|author=Fombonne E|title=The prevalence of autism|journal=JAMA|date=2003|volume=289|issue=1|pages=87–9|pmid=12503982|doi=10.1001/jama.289.1.87] [cite journal|author=Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J "et al."|title=The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders|journal=Annu Rev Public Health|year=2007|volume=28|pages=235–58|pmid=17367287|doi=10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007] though as-yet-unidentified contributing environmental risk factors cannot be ruled out. [cite journal|author=Rutter M|title=Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: changes over time and their meaning|journal=Acta Paediatr|volume=94|issue=1|date=2005|pages=2–15|pmid=15858952|doi=10.1080/08035250410023124]

Autism Phenome Project

In 2006, the M.I.N.D. Institute launched its Autism Phenome Project, with the objective of identifying biological and behavioral patterns in order to define distinct autism spectrum subtypes. According to Amaral, "The tremendous variation in autism leads us to believe that it is a group of disorders rather than a single one." [cite web|url=http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20071107_medicine_autism/index.html|title=Getting closer to finding the culprits|publisher=UC Davis Health System|accessdate=2007-11-11]

1800 children, aged two to four years will be enrolled in the longitudinal study, 900 diagnosed with autism, 450 with developmental delays, and 450 neurotypical control subjects. The study will involve systematic analyses of immune systems, brain structures, genetics, environmental exposures and blood proteins and other developmental indicators, and the medical evaluations will continue for several years.


External links

* [http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/ Welcome to UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute] – home page
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=922834 A New Approach to Autism: MIND Institute Sees Parents as Essential to a Cure] – Jon Hamilton, "All Things Considered", National Public Radio (January 20, 2003)
* [http://www.wb58tv.com/news/4358793/detail.html About Sarah Gardner] – (April 7, 2005)

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