Neuroimaging Contributions to the Understanding of Brain Development in Autism

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Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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In this lecture, David G. Amaral will present neuroimaging data acquired through the University of California, Davis MIND Institute’s Autism Phenome Project. Young children (aged 2 to 3 and a half years old) are recruited into this longitudinal project and MRI scans are acquired annually. Results will be presented supporting the concept that there are different types of altered brain development in different children with autism. Amaral will also discuss neuroimaging studies of infant siblings of children with autism that provide evidence for abnormal brain growth that may contribute to early biomarkers of autism.

About the Speaker

David G. Amaral joined the University of California, Davis in 1995 as a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the Center for Neuroscience. He is a staff scientist in the Brain, Mind and Behavior Unit at the California National Primate Research Center. Amaral was named the Beneto Foundation Chair and research director of the MIND Institute in 1998. He received a joint Ph.D. in psychology and neurobiology from the University of Rochester.

Amaral’s research focuses on the neurobiology of social behavior and the development and neuroanatomical organization and plasticity of the primate and human amygdala and hippocampal formation. Increasingly, his research has been dedicated to understanding the biological basis of autism. As research director of the MIND Institute, Amaral coordinates a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of children with autism, called the Autism Phenome Project, to define biomedical characteristics of different types of autism.

Most recently, Amaral became director of Autism BrainNet, a collaborative effort sponsored by the Simons Foundation and Autism Speaks, to solicit postmortem brain tissue to facilitate autism research.

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