TRAIN - Trentino Autism Initiative
The term “Autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) includes a number of conditions that share similar deficits in establishing interpersonal relationships. In the first years of life, these deficits alter the ability of individuals with ASD to interact with social partners causing other cognitive, affective and behavioural impairments.
ASD is characterized by persistent impairment of social communication and reciprocity, and by restricted and/or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Autism spectrum disorder manifests itself over a wide spectrum of severities, it has a strong genetic component leading to alterations in different brain regions during prenatal and perinatal development, that may be further modified by the environmental context.
Autism is therefore a very complex disorder with multiple causes and different symptoms and severities, and is often accompained by other impairments like mental deficits, epilepsy, anxiety and depression disorders. This variety of manifestations makes it very difficult to identify the causes, to diagnose it at an early stage and to develop effective treatment plans.
Symptoms of autism usually appear around the first year of age of a child, but generally a full diagnosis can be made around two years of age or even later. It is estimated that around 15 out of 1000 children are affected, and the disorder is far more prevalent in males compared to females.
The purpose of the project is to establish a network of laboratories focused on autism research in Trentino (“TRAIN – Trentino Autism Initiative”), to promote research on autism spectrum disorders at the local level.
The network brings together knowledge and skills from a variety of scientific fields, which range from in vitro and in vivo biology studies to behavioural and clinical studies with patients. The research areas span from the identification of new autism-related gene mutations, to studies on the effects of these gene mutations in cell and animal models, brain imaging, the bioinformatics of biomarkers, clinical assessments, and the evaluation of the efficacy of rehabilitation programmes for patients with autism.
All the members of the network also collaborate with prestigious research institutes at national and international level, in a joint effort which represents a unique opportunity to promote research on autism in Trentino.
The network therefore has the following 3 objectives:
- to carry out multidisciplinary basic and clinical research projects;
- to promote the interdisciplinary training of young researchers;
- to disseminate the results of its work in collaboration with organizations of parents of autistic children.
To achieve these objectives, TRAIN will promote its activities through this website and will look for partners among local entities, private companies and organizations of parents of autistic children.
Thirteen research teams are currently involved in studies on autism (research groups). They belong to six research centres.