The Enigma of Autism Spectrum Disorder

David Amaral
David G. Amaral
UC Davis MIND Institute, USA
9:30~10:30, November 20th, 2015

Abstract :

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing neurodevelopmental disorder in the United States and affects 1 in every 68 children. In Korea, the first study that determined prevalence found that it is even more common – affecting 1 in 38 children. In this presentation, I will provide a general overview of the behavioral and biological features of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I will highlight the fact that heterogeneity in symptom presentation and biological features is the most important impediment to identifying more effective treatments for ASD. I will briefly describe the Autism Phenome Project which is a large, multidisciplinary study of young children with autism spectrum disorder. I will summarize some of our neuroimaging and neuroimmune data that support the view that autism has many biological subtypes. To date, more than 300 children (2-3 ½-years old) with autism spectrum disorder or age-matched typically developing controls have been studied in this longitudinal research program. We are currently bringing the children back when they are 8-12-years-old to determine whether early biological features predict behavioral and medical outcome of the children.



Research Interests :

 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.



Education :

  • 1977 Ph.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York
  • 1972 B.A., Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois



Professional Activities :

  • 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