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E. A Comprehensive Autism Research Project

Narrator: This is Science Today. One of the biggest misconceptions about autism is that it is purely a psychological disorder. According to neurologist David Amaral, research director of the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California, Davis, most researchers in the field now believe that autism is a biological and medical disorder that affects the brain and other body systems.

Amaral: We've all come to the appreciation that there's probably multiple types of autism that all have the core features, just like there are many types of cancer. And we are working under the hypothesis that there are going to be different causes of autism. Some may be purely genetic, some may be purely environmental, but probably the majority of them will be a combination of genes and environment interacting.

Narrator: At the M.I.N.D. Institute, Amaral says researchers have launched the Autism Phenome Project.

Amaral: We're trying to look at all aspects of a child's biology and behavior. The problem in autism research in the past is that there's been good research that's been done, but it's been fragmentary.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.