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What we do

Our investigators explore the origins, detection, measurement, and prevention of conditions that affect behavioral, socioemotional, or cognitive development. We also evaluate services and policies that support affected children and their families.

Browse our autism research projects

Monitoring Autism Prevalence

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Network (ADDM) is a CDC-funded project that aims to monitor the number of cases of autism and other developmental disabilities in different regions of this country to provide accurate, population-based estimates of the prevalence of these disabilities in young children. Learn more.  View the Wendy Klag Center ADDM video

4 smiling women who work on autism prevalence team
Autism and Air Quality in China

China took major steps to improve air quality for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2008, ordering industries to cut emissions and restricting auto traffic July 20 to Sept. 19, 2008. Prior studies suggest that prenatal air pollution exposure and exposure during early infancy increase risk for ASD.

Given this unique research opportunity, findings may improve our understanding about the relationship between prenatal air quality and autism. Collaborating institutions of this project include Peking University in China and Emory University and Duke University in the United States. The study is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Baltimore Healthy Brain and Child Development

We are part of the largest long-term study of early brain and child development in the United States. Our investigators will work with Maryland families and children to understand how the brain develops and is affected by exposure to substances and other environmental, social, and biological factors during pregnancy and after birth. Learn more.

The EARLI Pregnancy Study

This national research study looks at factors that may increase the likelihood of having another child with autism in families already affected by the disorder. We seek to identify possible causes, which could be genetic, environmental, or a combination of both. The Wendy Klag center worked with mothers and their children from birth to age 3. Enrollment is now closed. The data and in some cases these families are also contributing to additional studies through the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. Learn more about the EARLI Study.

Watch the video.


As part of the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, this project invited families who were previously enrolled in our EARLI pregnancy study, adding new data and samples to that collected up to a decade earlier. For some study participants, this data collection spans in-utero development into adolescence. Learn more.

ECHO Baby Teeth Project

Also part of the larger NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, this project is collecting shed baby teeth from Maryland-area children whose families were part of the EARLI Study. The goal is to explore what substances the children were exposed to while in the womb.

All of these children have an older sibling with autism spectrum disorder, which puts them at greater likelihood of having ASD themselves, although most are typically developing. Specifically, investigators want to analyze these teeth for persistent organic pollutants such as pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and phthalates, as well as to analyze metals exposures.

Combining Advances in Genomics and Environmental Science to Accelerate Actionable Research and Practice in ASD (GEARs Network)

Our investigators are pulling together researchers at 18 GEARs network sites to understand how genetic and environmental factors interact to affect ASD and health outcomes. The research team will coordinate and evaluate data from ongoing population studies that include 175,000 individuals to determine how environmental factors such as air pollution, prenatal maternal infection, and prenatal nutrition influence the risk for ASD and the symptom severity accompanying genetic variants associated with ASD. GEARs will also develop and implement an outreach and dissemination strategy for new findings. Learn more. Learn more about NIH Centers for Excellence.

GEMMA Autism Research

Researchers plan to enroll 1,600 infants with higher likelihood of developing ASD at centers in Italy, Ireland, and the United States. Infants will be followed very closely from birth, to monitor their progress toward the possible onset of ASD. Collecting stool, tissue and blood samples from children over a five-year period – along with environmental data – scientists will study the interaction of the gut microbiota and its related mechanisms with the intestinal barrier and immune response. The goal of GEMMA is to identify biomarkers – measurable changes in the gut microbiota – that could predict development of ASD in genetically predisposed infants. Learn more.

Study to Explore Early Development (SEED)

Maryland SEED was part of a multi-state research study with the goals of learning:

  • Possible risk factors for developmental delays
  • Possible risk factors for autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • What are the common traits among children with ASD
  • What health conditions occur in children with ASD and developmental delays
  • How genes and the environment affect child development.

Learn more.

One mother’s story (video).

Read study newsletters from spring 2019 and fall 2019.