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Spanning the Spectrum

By Cameron Vernali '20

Published Apr 10, 2019 12:34 PM

In addition to conducting research on the disorder, UCLA provides support for the autism community.


UCLA has consistently tackled diseases and disorders that challenge every corner of society — cancer, depression, mental illness and many more. One complex area of research focuses on autism.

In addition to research in the lab, UCLA provides support, information and opportunities for students and those in the autistic community. The UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior was established in 2003. Since then, many advances have been made.

In November 2018, UCLA scientists found that the alteration of a specific gene increases the risk for neurodevelopmental problems in mice — a concept that can be applied to autism in humans. And in January 2019, UCLA researchers made a huge breakthrough: They found that individuals with autism have reduced RNA editing in their brain — which can change how genes are expressed.

CART’s research is the root of UCLA’s CAN REACH program, which aims to increase awareness of autism and bring science to the outside community through more accessible evidence-based treatments. CAN REACH aims to support community providers, teachers and families by providing free clinical trainings, educational seminars and resources. CART also acts as a community resource for exchange among scientists, practitioners and families seeking to better understand autism.

Since 2007, UCLA has also partnered with the Help Group to conduct research related to autism and to use that research to develop educational and clinical evidence-based practice models for individuals, ranging from preschool to young adulthood. For students, the disabilities studies minor includes classes that focus on autism.