All data acquired over the last two decades indicate that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has multiple causes. While genetic factors have been implicated in about 50% of the etiologies of ASD, it is likely that environmental factors are equally influential on the development of ASD. I will summarize studies that explore one potential autoimmune cause of autism. This series of research is based on the finding several years ago that a subset of women who have children with ASD, have unique antibodies directed at fetal brain. I will provide an update on our attempts to model this form of autism in the nonhuman primate. I will then summarize MRI studies and briefly review data that brain changes in our animal model of autism are paralleling changes seen in a subset of children with ASD.
Amaral’s interests include research involving multidisciplinary studies directed at determining the neuroanatomical, behavioral and electrophysiological organization and functions of brain systems that are involved in learning, memory, emotion and social behavior carried out on the human brain and on animal models. He also carries out research on neurobiological correlates of autism. As research director of the MIND Institute, he coordinates a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of children with autism called the Autism Phenome Project to define biomedical characteristics of different types of autism. This project will lead to more effective, hypothesis driven research on the causes of each type of autism and ultimately to more effective treatments. Amaral has also spearheaded efforts to establish animal models of autism and has been evaluating the potential immune basis of certain forms of autism.
Amaral has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 25 years, successfully launched a peer-reviewed journal, has served as editor-in-chief of the journal Neuroscience and co-edited books on autism spectrum disorders and the hippocampal formation. He was appointed to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health, served as president of the International Society of Autism Research and was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- 1977 Ph.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York
- 1972 B.A., Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
- Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1980
- Membership, American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Membership, American Association of Anatomists
- Membership, International Brain Research Organization
- Membership, Society for Neuroscience
- Membership, The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
- Membership, The Neuroscience Research Program
- NARSAD Distinguished Investigator