Carnegie Mellon University
September 25, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Participates In Brain Imaging Data Exchange To Advance Autism Research

More than 1,100 Autism and Control Datasets Released To Increase Pace of Imaging Research

Contact: Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 /

PITTSBURGH-Despite significant advances in understanding the neurobiological basis of autism spectrum disorders over the past 20 years, independent labs still use a variety of different approaches and have access to limited sample sizes. Laboratories around the world are actively collecting functional and structural MRI imaging data to examine the neural basis of autism, yet not one laboratory alone can obtain a dataset large enough to comprehensively appreciate the neural signatures of the disorder.

To change this and to further advance the discovery science of autism, Carnegie Mellon University's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab is participating in the Autism Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) program. Through ABIDE, more than 1,100 autism and control datasets from a group of 16 international research labs have just been released.

"This is a phenomenal collaboration that will allow researchers unprecedented access to a massive dataset, collected under careful conditions from a very large sample of individuals with autism, all of whom have been carefully characterized in term of their behavioral profile," said Marlene Behrmann, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. "We can now get a sense of the heterogeneity of the disorder and, for the first time, can begin to discern major trends in the group as a whole."

This effort to share imaging data is a collaboration between the International Neuroimaging Data-Sharing Initiative (INDI), Child Mind Institute, Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The available data includes samples from 539 individuals with autism between the ages of 7 and 64, and 573 matched controls from individuals between the ages of 6 and 56. The participating labs also have provided key diagnostic information - intelligence tests and selected questionnaires - with the imaging data.

"This collaboration fills an unmet need among the autism research community. By providing access to an unprecedented large-scale dataset, ABIDE has the potential to move autism research forward and thus advance our understanding of a complex disorder," said Adriana Di Martino, co-founder and coordinator of ABIDE and the Leon Levy Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. "We are honored that some of the world's leading institutions have contributed data and truly feel this initiative will help to change the face of autism research. This is only the beginning."

"We were very pleased to be invited to participate in the consortium not only because we have a lot of data to contribute and can assist this initiative but because the invitation recognizes that Carnegie Mellon is a major contributor to cutting-edge autism research," Behrmann said. "The CMU facilities are excellent and the data acquired are of the highest quality, enabling us to play a role in this extraordinary collaboration."

Carnegie Mellon's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab studies human behavior and patterns and dissociations within the brain to understand the neural aspects of autism, object recognition, facial recognition, mental imagery, reading and writing, and spatial attention. To continue to solve real-world problems in the brain sciences, CMU has established a Brain, Mind and Learning initiative to build upon  its research excellence in psychology, computer science and computation.

For more information on ABIDE and to access the datasets, visit