Antibodies, behavior and cognition

  • Autism Research
Speaker Betty Diamond, M.D.
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010 United States

Autism Research

Autism Research lectures bring together scientists and scholars to discuss diverse and important topics related to autism.

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On 30 May, Betty Diamond discussed how the immune system can mediate alterations in brain development and play a role in autism, as part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

Alan Brown provided a post-lecture commentary and context for Diamond’s work on epidemiological studies of autism and related disorders.

You can watch a complete video recording of the event above. Use the comments section below to discuss the lecture and pose follow-up questions.

About the Lecture

As neutralizers of microbial agents, antibodies are major contributors to immune competence. Occasionally, however, they act as autoantibodies, which bind to a person’s own tissue, triggering autoimmune disease. In adults, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain against autoantibodies, but that barrier is not fully competent in fetuses, allowing maternal antibodies to penetrate the fetal brain and potentially alter its development. This mechanism may contribute to some cases of autism.

About the Commentator

Alan S. Brown is professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University and director of the Unit in Birth Cohort Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. His research has focused on prenatal exposure to infectious, immunologic, nutritional and toxic factors, and its association with risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. He demonstrated earlier this year that elevated maternal C-reactive protein, an inflammatory biomarker, is related to a significantly increased risk of autism in the child. He is leading large, multi-site national birth cohort studies of prenatal biomarkers, developmental pathways and familial vulnerability based on an archived biobank and nationwide registries in Finland.

About the Speaker

Betty Diamond is head of the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Diseases at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York. Her research has focused on the induction and pathogenicity of anti-DNA antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus. She received the American College of Rheumatology’s Distinguished Investigator Award in 2001, the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize from the Arthritis Foundation in 2002, and the Recognition Award from the National Association of M.D.-Ph.D. Programs in 2004. Diamond was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2006.

Past Lectures

How emotions shape our memories

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D.Director, SFARI
Director, Simons Foundation Neuroscience Collaborations
Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D.Physicist and Author

Have you ever contemplated the difference between a feeling, a thought and a memory? And how do all these things fit together in making us who we are?

Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist and best-selling author. In his latest book, “Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking,” he unpacks the role emotions play in our thinking and mental well-being.

Kelsey Martin, director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and the foundation’s neuroscience collaborations, has spent much of her career as a neuroscientist seeking to understand better how experiences change brain connectivity to store long-term memories.

What do we mean by ‘autism risk genes’?

David Ledbetter, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer, Dascena

Joseph Buxbaum, Ph.D.
Director, Seaver Autism Center
Professor, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomic Sciences
Vice Chair for Research and Vice Chair for Mentoring, Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Heather Mefford, M.D., Ph.D.
Full Member, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

David Ledbetter and Joseph Buxbaum discussed whether there are genes for which mutations confer risk specific to autism or whether these genes are really conferring general risk of disrupted brain development. The discussion was moderated by Heather Mefford.

Small molecules, genes and antisense oligonucleotides: Industry perspectives on treatment development for ASD

Federico Bolognani, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President, Head of Clinical Science, Axial Therapeutics

Stuart Cobb, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Neurogene; Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Yael Weiss, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President, Business Development, Ultragenyx

Randy Carpenter, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Rett Syndrome Research Trust; Co-Founder, Allos Pharma

Federico Bolognani, Stuart Cobb, and Yael Weiss joined a panel to discuss new industry developments on the use of small molecules, gene therapy and antisense oligonucleotides as treatment approaches for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The panel discussion was moderated by Randall Carpenter.

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