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Pitt researchers seek parent volunteers for autism study

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

University of Pittsburgh researchers announced today they are looking for parent volunteers for a new study to look at potential triggers for autism.

The study — funded by Heinz Endowments — will focus on genetic, environmental and biological factors that could cause autism spectrum disorders. Researchers are planning to talk with parents of young children — both with autism and without — about their homes, jobs, hobbies, medical conditions, medication use and other factors during the mother's pregnancy and the child's infancy. They also plan to look at air pollution and other environmental exposures for the children.

"Autism spectrum disorders are a major health concern," Dr. Evelyn Talbott, a professor of epidemiology at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health and the study's principal investigator, said in a statement. "We hope that the results of this study will help lead to a better understanding of the role of environmental factors in ASDs."

The announcement of the research comes a day after scientific journals published the results of three studies showing that spontaneous and rare gene mutations are a likely cause of autism in children of parents who have never had the disease.

Pitt researchers are looking for about 750 parents from throughout southwestern Pennsylvania in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties to participate in the study. The study will try to determine whether substantial differences exist in the environmental and other exposures among children with autism and without.

For more information about participating in the study, visit or call Constance M. Bayles, of GSPH's Department of Epidemiology is the project director at 412-624-3122.

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