Autism BrainNet Collection

Genetic analyses, neuroimaging studies and in vivo and in vitro models have greatly advanced the knowledge of the biological basis of autism spectrum disorder. Yet the cellular, molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying this condition remain little understood.

Research using postmortem brain tissue can lead the way to better understand the biological causes of autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions, and to identify targets for the development of new and effective treatments.

Autism BrainNet Collection
The Autism BrainNet collection currently comprises 346 brain donations, including:

  • 121 brains from individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of autism
  • 29 brains from individuals whose diagnosis of autism is still being reviewed by our clinical team
  • 14 brains from individuals whose diagnosis of autism could not be confirmed
  • 36 brains from individuals without a diagnosis of autism but with a genetic diagnosis included in the SPARK gene list that confers a high risk of autism
  • 138 brains from individuals with no known psychiatric or neurological conditions
  • 4 brains from individuals with epilepsy without an autism diagnosis

For all donations, either brain hemisphere has been fixed or frozen. More information about available tissue specimens, preparation (fixed/frozen), postmortem interval interval (PMI) and integrity for RNA measurements (RIN) can be found in the Autism BrainNet Tissue Catalogue. Additional information, including phenotypic data and medical history of the donors is available to approved researchers through SFARI Base.

Autism BrainNet has partnered with the New York Genome Center to genetically characterize all the brains from individuals with autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions, using whole exome sequencing, whole genome sequencing and genotyping. Data from 120 brains from donors with autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions are currently available to interested researchers and can be requested through SFARI Base. Moving forward, Autism BrainNet will continue to genetically characterize tissue from all donors with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. New data releases are expected on a quarterly basis.

As part of its prior collaboration with Autism Speaks, Autism BrainNet also manages tissue that was previously collected through the Autism Tissue Program (ATP).

Autism Celloidin Library
Autism BrainNet also supports the Autism Celloidin Library, a collection of 28 fixed brains from 14 donors with ASD and 14 neurotypical individuals. These brains have been cut into serial 200-μm-thick sections; sections have been mounted on histological slides and stained with cresyl violet. All slides are currently being digitized to create a permanent digital record of the collection. The digitized images will be anatomically annotated and made available for research purposes via SFARI Base.

Interested researchers can apply to request Autism BrainNet tissue and related phenotypic and genomic data though SFARI Base.

More information about the tissue request process can be found here.

Last updated: October 31, 2023