An Ending and a Beginning: Landmark Research Network Concludes

When autism was first named in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, it was thought to be a rare condition, occurring in fewer than three children in 10,000. By 1996, the estimated incidence of autism was about 12 cases per 10,000 children—not exactly the rate of a rare disorder.

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder of development, which usually involves symptoms related to communication, social interactions, and routines or repetitive behaviors. Because people with autism can have very different symptoms, health care providers think of autism as a "spectrum disorder"—a group of disorders with a range of similar features. For this reason, "autism" and “autism spectrum disorder or ASD” are often used to mean the same thing.

Recognizing that autism was a substantial and growing pediatric problem, leadership at the NICHD set out to learn more about the condition. But to do so, they would have to change the paradigm of how the research was conducted. The result, the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEAs): Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism, is one of the most significant research efforts of the last 50 years.

To learn more about the establishment and growth of the CPEA Network, and about its unique characteristics, select one of the following links:

For more information about autism and the CPEA Network, visit:


Originally Posted: November 8, 2006

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