CLINTON —The Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is looking to the state of Iowa for participants in a family genetic study of language in autism.

According to a press release from Northwestern University, researchers are conducting a study to help understand the causes of autism. The study includes those individuals who have autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger Syndrome, as well as their parents and grandparents. The federally funded research focuses on identifying subtle traits among family members of individuals with autism. These traits may provide clues into the genes implicated in autism.

Researchers at Northwestern decided it was important to have Iowans participate in the study because the state has archived certain standardized testing records. Researchers have found evidence that profiles of academic performance in parents, based on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, predicted features of autism in their children.

This result suggests that a link exists between different learning patterns during childhood in people who do not have autism and the genes that do cause autism. Researchers from Northwestern say this finding shows how the traits related to autism are genetically based and exist in everyone. The current study builds on these findings by including other family members across generations who went to school in Iowa.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Iowans and are always looking for participants from Iowa to get involved with our non-profit research,” said Emily Landau, a research assistant at the Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory.

Participation in the study is open to anyone with a relative who has autism or an autism spectrum condition such as Asperger’s Syndrome, or anyone with these conditions themselves. Being part of the study includes tasks such as telling a story while seeing pictures on a screen, looking at pictures, solving puzzles, completing measures of brain activity and talking about friendships and ways of relating to other people. Participants will also complete questionnaires and provide a blood sample. Participation includes up to two visits and participants will be compensated for their time.

To participate or to learn more, contact the Northwestern team at 1-877-275-7187 or familystudy@northwestern.edu.

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