The National Institutes of Health is making major investments into research projects looking at how autism impacts a person’s development, sleep, mental health, aging and more.

The federal agency said this month that it is awarding $100 million to nine different research efforts over the next five years through its Autism Centers of Excellence program.

The initiative supports projects to expand understanding of autism diagnosis, causes and interventions and to “facilitate innovative and cost-effective services for people with ASD throughout the lifespan.”

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As part of the program, each center will focus on a particular topic area, bringing together teams of experts from multiple institutions to collaborate, NIH said.

The centers will establish external advisory boards that include parents of those with autism or people on the spectrum themselves and they will work with the autism community to understand any relevant needs and concerns and share their findings.

Projects that will be funded through the Autism Centers of Excellence program include a Columbia University effort focused on infants at high genetic risk for autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions, a Stanford University examination of the relationship between autism and sleep disturbances and a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study looking at brain and behavior development in kids — including many who are at high familial risk for autism — who have been followed from infancy to adolescence.

In addition, awards are going to Drexel University to examine the use of medical services in underserved populations with autism, a Duke University study focused on developing new methods for screening kids for autism, a project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison following adults with autism as they age, an investigation of the emotional and mental health of adults with autism at the University of Pittsburgh, an effort at the University of Virginia to establish methods to identify adolescents and adults who are frequently misdiagnosed, diagnosed late or overlooked altogether and a Johns Hopkins University study looking at how genetic and environmental factors impact autism and health outcomes.

First created in 2007, the Autism Centers of Excellence program is renewed every five years.

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