Autism, autisms, or neurodevelopmental disorders?

  • Autism Research
Speaker Jason Lerch, Ph.D.
University of Oxford
Date & Time


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

Tea 4:15 – 5:00 pm
Lecture 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm

Autism Research

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

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On January 29, 2020, Jason Lerch explored this question: What do modern ways of looking at brains and genes tell us about autism – or autisms – and its relation to attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other related disorders of brain development?

His talk was part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

About the Lecture

If we had known back then what we know now, would we have the disorder names and categories that we do? In this lecture, Jason Lerch explored that question: What do modern ways of looking at brains and genes tell us about autism –  or autisms  –  and its relation to attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other related disorders of brain development? He presented the unfolding view that separating individual disorders is difficult while at the same time there are not enough categories to make sense of a complex mix of symptoms, genes, and signatures in the brain.

About the Speaker

Jason Lerch is the director of preclinical imaging at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford. Before his move to Oxford in 2019, he spent 14 years at the Mouse Imaging Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He completed his Ph.D. in 2005 in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. Lerch received his B.A. in 1999 in anthropology and social studies of medicine from McGill University. His Ph.D. research, under the supervision of Alan Evans, was on in vivo measurements of cortical thickness from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). His research focus is on detecting changes in the brain due to behavioral and genetic manipulations in tightly-controlled mouse models, primarily related to neurodevelopmental disorders, and to relate these findings to not-as-well-controlled human individuals.

Past Lectures

How emotions shape our memories

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D.Executive Vice President, Autism and Neuroscience
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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