GAIN Study

Autism affects 1 in 252 girls in the United States but little is known about brain structure and connectivity patterns in girls with autism. Autism is 5 times more common in boys, and the majority of research studies using MRI to evaluate autism reflect the strong male bias of the disorder. As a result, girls with autism are understudied and we don’t yet know if there are biological differences in brain structure and connectivity between boys and girls with autism. The goal of the GAIN study is to advance the understanding of the biology of autism in girls. With a better understanding of this biology, we hope to be able to find cause(s) and better treatments.


  • Girls between the ages of 2 to 3-1/2 at the time of the first visit 
  • Have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or typical development
  • Live with at least one biological parent
  • Must understand English

What does Participation involve?

This is a longitudinal study that will initially span three years. During the first year, participation involves 2 half-day visits to the UC Davis MIND Institute for behavioral assessments, medical examination, and a blood draw. You will return for an evening visit to complete the sleep MRI scan at the Imaging Research Center.

For some families living further distances away from the MIND Institute, visits may be scheduled in one 2-day visit, with hotel accommodations provided. We try to schedule the visits at your convenience, given the availability of staff and resources. 

One year later, your child will be asked to return for a repeat MRI scan. Two years after your first visit, your child will be asked to repeat some of the behavioral tests and a repeat MRI scan. Please click on the links to the right for more detailed information.

What will you receive for participating in the study?

  • A brief letter of information about your child’s performance on the behavioral assessments.
  • A copy of the MRI brain scan on a CD
  • A copy of the MRI report will be provided to your child’s physician, with your consent.
  • Compensation and a travel stipend after each visit.