Current Studies

Autism Care

Research
Education
Community
Policy

Research

“Future research needs to focus not only on the biological markers of ASD but also include data about functioning, participation, and environmental barriers and facilitators.”

Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo  //  Developmental Pediatrician

 

MacART is laying the foundation for creating a systematic way of linking scientific research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at McMaster University to clinical practice at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The physical proximity of McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University has a number of characteristics that provides the rare opportunity for collaborative research. Taking advantage of existing university and clinical infrastructure and cross-appointments for clinicians at the university, ASD experts from these organizations are coming together to integrate ASD research into clinical practice.

The focus of MacART members’ research is in the areas of basic science, clinical practice, clinical research, epidemiology and statistical modelling, knowledge translation and exchange, and social science research. By promoting the collaboration of stakeholders across disciplines, MacART is reducing barriers to implementing research in clinical practice, with the goal of advancing autism care through meaningful research.

Learn more about our research HERE.

Education

MacART members are now supervising more than 50 research trainees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels, and are engaged in the mentoring of junior and intermediate faculty members.

In the future, we intend to establish research and clinical training programs for students in McMaster’s undergraduate medical, health sciences, and psychology programs, and for residents and fellows in Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

By training and mentoring emerging researchers and practitioners, we will help to solidify their understanding of and commitment to using basic science to inform their clinical practice, and to use their clinical experience to help formulate research questions. It is our belief that involving these learners in MacART educational activities will promote their use of practices that advance autism care through meaningful research.

Community

“Our scientists are working collaboratively with local clinicians to generate the evidence needed to improve autism services. This symposium is a great example of McMaster’s community engagement efforts.”

Dr. Patrick Deane // President & Vice-Chancellor // McMaster University

 

The community engagement component of MacART strives to work with stakeholders and involve them as partners in every step of the research process.  By doing so, the questions that drive research begin to change. They become more meaningful because they address the real day-to-day challenges faced by children and their families, and the clinicians supporting them.

MacART aims to increase participation and involvement of members of the McMaster and Hamilton communities in the research process. With community members driving the research, new and relevant knowledge can be produced to bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD and advance autism care through meaningful research.

Policy

“People whose lives are connected to the challenge of autism can share knowledge – from clinicians to educators to parents – and what an amazing opportunity that is. We have a real opportunity to translate challenges into research, and research into practice that will help families living with autism.”

Rob MacIsaac  //  President & CEO // Hamilton Health Sciences

 

Policies should be created using the best available evidence that make positive impacts on the lives of individuals with ASD, along with their families.

MacART’s founder, Stelios Georgiades, serves on both federal and provincial advisory committees about ASD treatment funding.  Along with the wide-ranging expertise of its many ASD experts, MacART is set to act as a highly credible source of evidence-based information to influence and inform public policy about the provision and funding of ASD diagnosis, treatment, and family supports.

MacART will continue to find ways to collaborate with policymakers to both learn more about the policymaking process, and to contribute our expertise and knowledge to inform policymaking, in order to advance autism care through meaningful research.

Current Studies by MacART Members

 

The list below shows currently active, on-going research studies and projects being conducted by MacART members and our partners and collaborators.

Some of these studies are also looking for participants. That list of studies, along with who would be eligible to take part, can also be found on the ‘Recruiting Studies’ page. 

The Pediatric Autism Research Cohort (PARC) Study

Funded by:

McMaster Children's Hospital & McMaster University

Researchers:

Dr. Stelios Georgiades, Dr. Caroline Roncadin, Dr. Ronit Mesterman, Dr. Irene Drmic, and Colleagues.

Study Description:

This study is working to examine the factors that influence diversity in how Autism unfolds over time. The goals are to explore the factors contributing to the diverse pathways and outcomes in Autistic young children, to generate research evidence that can inform families and clinicians as they work together to develop more personalized intervention plans for children with Autism. The study will be recruiting children newly diagnosed with autism who are under 5 years old, and inviting their families to complete sets of online questionnaires every 6 months over the study period.

Approximate Study Period:

January 2021 - ongoing

More Information:

This is the full scale version of the PARC study (for more information, see this link).

 

Pathways to Better Developmental Health in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Funded by:

Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)

Researchers:

Dr. Teresa Bennett, Dr. Eric Duku, Dr. Stelios Georgiades, Dr. Peter Szatmari, and Colleagues.

Study Description:

This longitudinal cohort study is investigating the development of the core symptoms and outcomes in children with Autism, which will provide essential information on their prognosis. The study will also lead to a better understanding of the factors associated with healthy outcomes in children with special needs and typically developing children. There is a focus on the critical period after diagnosis at 2 to 4 years of age, the transition into school, a time period during which there is wide variability in the development course of children with Autism, continuing as they grow and develop into their teen years. This study is currently in Phase III.

Study Period:

April 2005 - June 2023

More Information: Pathways in ASD - Website

 

Strengthening the health system to support caregivers of children with autism to engage in their child’s care

Funded by:

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Researchers:

Dr. Stephen Gentles and Colleagues.

Study Description:

This ongoing fellowship project involves a series of studies in partnership with Autism Ontario, and has two aims. First is a review of the literature using systematic methods to summarize what is known about the factors influencing parent involvement in their child’s care. Second is the development of a new measure of parents’ readiness and ability to meet these demands for involvement. Information for developing this measure will come from the literature review and from interviewing people on both sides—parents of children with Autism, and professionals that provide Autism services. The measure will then be tested to ensure it works well in a clinical setting. When ready, it will be made available, free of charge, for care providers across Canada to monitor and improve service delivery to families of children with Autism.

Approximate Study Period:

September 2019 - ongoing

 

A randomized placebo-controlled trial of ARBaclofen vs. placebo in the treatment of children and adolescents with ASD

Funded by:

Ontario Brain Institute, Brain Canada

Researchers:

Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, Dr. Julia Frei, Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo, Dr. Robert Nicolson, and Colleagues.

Study Description:

The Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network is researching genes, the brain, and behaviour to find potential treatments in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We are currently investigating whether arbaclofen may help improve social functioning in children and teens with autism. We are looking for children and teens between 5 and 17 years old diagnosed with an Autism and able to tolerate bloodwork. This 18 week long study (9 visits) is comparing arbaclofen against placebo for improving social and global function, and communication. The most common side effects are sedation (tiredness) and upset stomach.

Approximate Study Period:

August 2019 - ongoing (closed to recruitment)

 

The Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network

Funded by:

Ontario Brain Institute

Researchers:

Dr. Stelios Georgiades, Dr. Teresa Bennett, Dr. Joseph Beyene, Dr. Jane Foster, Dr. Geoff Hall, Dr. Caroline Roncadin, Dr. Karun Singh, Dr. Noam Soreni, Dr. Peter Szatmari, Dr. Marc Woodbury-Smith, Dr. Margaret Fahnestock, and Colleagues.

Study Description:

To accelerate the discovery of biomarkers that will enhance understanding of Autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and intellectual disability, Tourette Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, and Down Syndrome. The project will also accelerate the translation of these discoveries into novel, effective and personalized treatments aimed at improving the lives of affected children and their families. Since its inception, 472 participants with Autism have had behavioural and cognitive assessments, imaging, and electrophysiology studies. More children and their families will be recruited in the future.

Approximate Study Period:

October 2011 - March 2023

Recruitment Information:

This study is currently recruiting. Please see the following PDFs for more information: POND Network BrochurePOND Network Flyer
Eligibility criteria: Confirmed ASD diagnosis; 21 years, 11 months of age or less.
If interested in participating, please contact: Alessia Greco, algreco@mcmaster.ca, or Carolyn Russell, crussel@mcmaster.ca

 

Gut-Immune Biomarkers and Behaviour in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Funded by:

Ontario Brain Institute, Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorder (POND) Network

Researchers:

Dr. Jane Foster, Dr. Dawn Bowdish

Study Description:

This project studies the relationship between the microbiome-immune-brain axis and behaviour in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Dysbiosis and immune abnormalities are reported in a subset of NDD patients, with increased levels of inflammation being associated with symptom severity. One aspect of this study is examining the link between the activation levels of immune cells and markers of gut inflammation with anxiety in children with NDDs. The other aspect of this study uses a reverse translation approach that examines the effects of eliminating microbiome T-cell communication and neurodevelopmental outcomes in a mouse model.

Approximate Study Period:

October 2011 - March 2023