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Molecular Imaging Branch (MIB)

Neuroimmune Activation in Autism: Imaging Translocator Protein using Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Study 11-M-0118: AUTISM

People with autism and autism spectrum disorders have problems with communication, behavior, and socializing, and many also have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The cause of autism is not known, but previous research has suggested an association between autism and immune changes in the brain. Researchers are interested in using the experimental radioactive drug (11C)PBR28, which attaches to a target in the brain that is involved in immune changes. Using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning of people with and without autism, researchers will see if there are greater immune changes in people with autism.


To determine if PET scanning can be used to evaluate changes in an immune system target (called translocator protein) in the brains of people with autism.


  • Individuals between 18 and 45 years of age who have been diagnosed with either autism or autism spectrum disorders, or are healthy volunteers.
  • Individuals must be in good health, with no history of serious head trauma.


  • Participants will be screened with a physical examination and psychological examination, medical history, questionnaires about behavior and mood, and blood and urine tests.
  • Participants will have two imaging studies of the brain on separate visits. The first study visit will involve a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to provide a baseline image of the brain. The second study visit will involve a PET scan with the radioactive chemical (11C)PBR28 to study an immune system target (called translocator protein) in the brain. The MRI scan will take about 40 minutes, and the PET scan will take about 2 hours.
  • Compensation is provided for participation.
  • Transportation reimbursement may be provided.


Phone: 301-435-8982
Additional information available at: OR 
Please refer to Study # 11-M-0118