At the Child Mind Institute, we’re very happy to have been a part of today’s public release of more than 500 brain scans of people with autism as part of the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE) and the International Neuroimaging Data-sharing Initiative (INDI) Summer of Sharing. The whole dataset, with imaging from 539 individuals with autism spectrum disorders and 573 typical controls, is now available for anyone around the world to analyze—with the expectation that open sharing and collaboration will lead to new discoveries about the neural nature of autism, much in the same way that the ADHD 200 Consortium has encouraged novel approaches to identifying ADHD. In short, ABIDE is a sterling example of the open science that the field is moving towards, and that will eventually lead to a better understanding of the brain.

ABIDE is also a “big deal” for the autism research community, as Child Mind Institute Center for the Developing Brain director Michael Milham, MD, PhD puts it. Because of the many different ways autism affects different people—in terms of symptoms and severity—large sets of data are required to draw conclusions about the disorder. It has been difficult to gather these big samples, but the autism community has been at the forefront of advocating for sharing and open science, and the ABIDE release is a culmination of that push. A preliminary analysis of the data has already produced some novel ideas about how autism manifests in the brain at the “connectome” level—which regions talk to which other regions—and we hope that this is just the beginning.

16 institutions around the world joined together in this experiment in transparency and collaboration. The next time we report on an event like this, hopefully it will be even more.

You can check out the ABIDE page at the International Neuroimaging Data-sharing Initiative site here.