The CANDY Project

Research project investigating the underlying mechanisms of co-existing neurodevelopmental conditions and epilepsy has kicked-off

For the first time,

experts from the fields of autism, ADHD and epilepsy are joining forces in the European funded project CANDY

CANDY's innovation

is to test, for the first time, if autism, ADHD and ID are caused by a combination of genetic factors and immune activation during ‘sensitive periods’

The CANDY Project

In Europe, 10-15% of children and adults or 50 to 75 million individuals are affected by neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disability (ID), motor problems and language disorders. It is not hard to imagine that one of these conditions alone can have a serious impact on a person’s life. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that several of these conditions often co-exist and, on top of that, go along with somatic illnesses, such as epilepsy. This significantly affects both life expectancy and quality of life and there are no effective treatments to date.

In the CANDY project, we investigate the biological links between these neurodevelopmental conditions and co-existing somatic illnesses and how treatment and monitoring of affected patients can be improved.


of the EU population are affected by Neurodevelopmental Conditions such as autism, ADHD or ID


People on the autism spectrum experience persistent difficulties with social interaction and communication, display restricted and repetitive behaviour and/or have special circumscribed interests and activities. They often also experience sensory difficulties, such as increased or reduced sensitivity to light, sound, colour, smell, taste or touch.
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ADHD belongs also to the group of neurodevelopmental conditions with onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence. It manifests itself by problems with attention span and self-regulation and/or by impulsivity and high physical restlessness (hyperactivity). A clinical diagnosis is made when persistent symptoms are associated with impairments of functioning at home, school, workplace or during leasure time. However, symptoms alone are not sufficient for a diagnosis.

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Intellectual disability (ID) is characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.

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Elizabeth Jones

“CANDY will improve our understanding of the overlap and associations between neurodevelopmental conditions and may have an impact on both the guidance for clinical assessment and for preventative and treatment strategies"

Prof. Jan Buitelaar, Coordinator

Elizabeth Jones

"I want to contribute to a better understanding of neurodevelopmental conditions. I believe this can aid in earlier intervention and finding more fitting support for people with a neurodevelopmental condition"

Ana Praat, Research Assistant

Elizabeth Jones

"Our team explores immune markers in the context of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) to advance diagnostics and enhance understanding of their pathogenesis."

Dr. Ching-Lien WU, Scientist

Elizabeth Jones

"I am very excited about being part of a project that will help us understand the differences and similarities between different childhood onset diagnoses like ASD and ADHD, which is crucial for better individualized interventions in the future. "

Dr. Terje Falck-Ytter, Principle researcher
KIND at Karolinska Institutet


Elizabeth Jones

"Most people probably know at least one autistic person in their broader environment. I think that relating my research to what people see in their daily life can definitely make them understand why it is relevant."

Alexandra Abromeit, PhD candidate

Elizabeth Jones

"CANDY offers a framework to link animal and human data. By testing mice and preschoolers with a developmental delay in a comparable behavioural test battery, we not only advance the mechanistic understanding of the developmental changes in the preschoolers, but also enrich science with the availability of a validated translational test battery "

Prof. Judith Homberg

Elizabeth Jones

"I want to help, change and improve the identification, diagnosis and care of people with neurodevelopmental disorders. There's still so much to discover and do, it's fascinating!"

Marianne Mercier, Psychologist

Elizabeth Jones

"My research seeks to obtain detailed mechanistic insights and explores the multivariate mechanisms implicated in autism spectrum conditions to better understand the complexities of this condition."

Alejandro Rivera-Olvera, PhD candidate

Elizabeth Jones

"I’m involved in the cognitive tests, the imaging, and the contact with all of our parents. The best thing about testing are the children themselves. They always bring so much energy to the days, no day is the same!"

Sanne Kluin, Research Assistant

Elizabeth Jones

"Autistic people are much more likely to have epilepsy than the general population. We hope that this research will pave the way for new and more efficient treatments to address the symptoms of autistic people suffering from epilepsy and improve their quality of life."

Aurélie Baranger, Director
Autism Europe

Elizabeth Jones

"I try to better understand the biological mechanisms that underlie Autism Spectrum Disorders.The ultimate goal of my research is to improve our understanding of sensory symptoms. Hopefully, this can contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for those who are affected by these symptoms."

Iris Riemersma, PhD

Elizabeth Jones

"It has become increasingly evident that there is tremendous overlap in clinical features between neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions. CANDY helps us to move out of our silos by adopting a transdiagnostic approach."

Eva Loth, Professor


European countries

Project duration (months)

Our Research

Read more about the “problem” and the opportunity in CANDY, and more detailed information about biomarkers, the microbiome, neuroinflammation and critical periods. 

FAQs »

Facts & Figures »

The Team »


In CANDY we are collaborating with the AIMS-2-TRIALS project and their study “Pre-School Brain Imaging and Behaviour Project (PIP)”. PIP is the first study to track how pre-school children with and without autism develop over time and across Europe.

Multiplex Study

This is the first study to track the heritability of rare genetic risk variants for several neurodevelopmental conditions. Neurodevelopmental conditions likely result from a combination of both rare genetic variants and many common low-risk variants.

News & Events

CANDY 5th General Assembly Meeting

CANDY 5th General Assembly Meeting

​Last week, the 5th CANDY General Assembly took place in the beautiful Dutch city of Nijmegen. Since the beginning of the project, we have been planning to meet in the hometown of our coordinator, and finally could met there in person. On Monday, 15 January 2024, more...

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