ace logo

What is ACE?

The ACE (Autism Center of Excellence) Program was created to consolidate the disparate approaches to autism research. ACE research centers, collaborative teams at a central facility, other ACE research networks, as well as researchers collaborating from multiple facilities will work with their teams to address a specific question regarding possible causes and treatments for ASDs. 


Our ACE Network at UVA aims to answer why four times as many boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls.

We know that early autism diagnosis leads to the best quality of life, but most children are not diagnosed until at least age 3. Many people -- especially girls -- never even receive this life-changing diagnosis. Even after decades of research, the causes of autism remain a mystery, and diagnosis and treatment rely on observing a person’s behaviors. 

Our scientific process consists of:

  • Identifying sex differences in brain development in chrildren with Autism
  • Linking gene variations with degree of brain abnormalities
  • Using brain findings to predict children’s outcomes in adolescence and young adulthood
  • Validate findings via collaboration with people with ASD

At UVA, we have a vision for tomorrow where people with autism are empowered, families are strengthened, and communities are transformed. The multidisciplinary approach of our research allows broad application to all aspects of the necessities required to lead a fulfilling life, ranging from those affected to their families.

Our ACE Network is a research initiative under the University of Virginia Brain Institute, a leader in interdisciplinary neuroscience.  

Our Funding

nimhNational Institutes of Mental Health, "Multimodal Neurogenetics of Females with Autism" (R01MH100028, PI: Pelphrey, Kevin) – Autism Center of Excellence Grant.


nih NIH, "Parsing ASD Heterogeneity: Neuroendophenotypes of Social Attention and Sensory Responsivity" (R01MH117982, PIs: Dapretto, Mirella & Pelphrey, Kevin).


autism scienceAutism Science Foundation, "Exploring Oxytocin as a Mechanism for Sex-Related Differences in Brain Structure in Autism" (PI: Jack, Allison).


autism speaksAutism Speaks Postdoctoral Fellowship award, “Transition to adulthood and factors impacting well-being in women with autism” (POID 11808) (PI: McQuaid, Goldie).