Autism and the other pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) are complex neurodevelopmental disorders that typically appear during the first three years of life. Children and adults affected by autism/PDD have difficulties in social interactions, in acquisition and use of language, and in leisure and play activities. The disorders may also be characterized by repetitive movements, self-injurious behavior, resistance to changes in routines, and increased sensitivity to sensations such as touch or sound. Autism/PDD are believed to be caused by brain differences that have yet to be fully explained in the majority of cases. Autism and related pervasive developmental disorders (e.g., Asperger's disorder and PDD not otherwise specified) occur in approximately 1 in 150 live births, and affect all races, ethnicities, and social groups.

In addition to patient care, research in the area of autism has been a priority at the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry. Neuroimaging studies of autism/PDD are also being pursued vigorously, with both structural and functional studies underway. A major genetic study has also been completed at Stanford in collaboration with the Department of Genetics.

Our autism studies are focused on genetic influences, brain structure and function and clinical presentation. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the study website.