Autism Research Studies at Stanford

Study Title/ Age 


SPARK (Simons Powering Autism Research) Study

all ages

If you or your child has a professional diagnosis of autism, Stanford University invites you to learn more about SPARK, a new online research study sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. The mission of SPARK is clear: speed up research and advance understanding of autism by creating the nation’s largest autism study. Joining SPARK is simple – register online and provide a DNA sample via a saliva collection kit in the comfort of your own home. Together, we can help spark a better future for all individuals and families affected by autism.

Register in person at Stanford University by contacting us at or online at

Neuroimaging Predictors of Improvement to Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) in Young Children With Autism


2-4 years

Neuroimaging Predictors of Improvement to Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) in Young Children With Autism

Stanford University researchers are recruiting children with autism to identify brain imaging predictors of benefits from Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) targeting language abilities.

In order to participate in this research study, your child must:

  • Be between the ages of 2 and 4 years
  • Be able to complete an MRI of the brain during natural sleep
  • Participate in a 16-week parent training program
  • Meet inclusion based on testing.





KidsFirst is a network of researchers performing a comprehensive study and review of biological and behavioral features over time. 

The study, KidsFirst Heroes, is one of the deepest biological looks at autism and related developmental conditions that has ever been attempted,  and it’s our best chance to understand the diverse and complex nature of autism and related conditions and help tailor interventions and support for each child.

KidsFirst Heroes is looking for families of children diagnosed with autism or related conditions, especially: 

  • Children who have autism along with a large head circumference (macrocephaly)
  • Families that have multiple children with autism or related conditions

Participating in KidsFirst Heroes is free and easy. Everything is done online and from your home at your convenience, and you’ll be compensated for your time. This is a long-term study of DNA, behavior and functioning.

For more info, go to

Vasopressin Treatment Trial for Children with Autism

6 - 17 years

Vasopressin Treatment Trial for Children with Autism

The purpose of this clinical trial is to investigate the effectiveness of vasopressin nasal spray for treating symptoms associated with autism. Vasopressin is a hormone that is produced naturally within the body and has been implicated in regulating social behaviors. It has been proposed that administration of the hormone may also help improve social functioning in individuals with autism.

Link to study at


Pregnenolone Randomized Controlled Trial


14 - 21 years

Neurosteroid Pregnenolone Treatment for Irritability in Adolescents with Autism

Medication treatments for core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continue to be unmet medical needs. The only medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of individuals with ASD are effective in treating irritability and associated aggressive behaviors, but these medications can also cause severe long-term side effects such as diabetes and involuntary motor movements. Therefore, effective medications with more tolerable side effect profiles are highly desirable. This profile is consistent with pregnenolone (PREG). PREG belongs to a new class of hormones known as neurosteroids, which have been shown to be effective in treating various psychiatric conditions including bipolar depression and schizophrenia. As compared to currently FDA-approved medications, our preliminary data suggested that PREG may represent a potentially effective and well-tolerated agent for treating irritability in individuals with ASD. In addition, our experience suggests that PREG might be helpful in improving selected core symptoms such as social deficits and sensory abnormalities of ASD. This study provides the opportunity to further explore the usefulness of PREG in the treatment of irritability and some core symptoms of ASD. We are performing a 12-week randomized double-blind controlled pilot trial to examine the effectiveness of orally administered PREG in reducing irritability and associated behaviors in adolescents with ASD. In this study, we also aim to examine the usefulness of biomarkers (blood levels of neurosteroids, eyetracking and brain wave recording) in predicting treatment response and assessing biologic changes with PREG treatment.

Study Flyer 

Link to study in Stanford's Clinical Trials Directory