Evolving perspectives on autism

  • Autism Research
  • Speakers
  • Catherine Lord, Ph.D.

    Distinguished Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

    Steven Hyman, M.D.

    Core Institute Member, Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

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 26 September 2013, Catherine Lord and Steven Hyman presented conceptual frameworks for autism diagnosis and research, ranging from genetics to symptomatology, as part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

Eric London provided post-lecture commentary, placing the discussion in a clinical context and providing a physician’s perspective.

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

Tremendous progress has been made in our understanding of autism, with major contributions coming from a variety of research fields, including genetics, neuroscience and psychology. The clinical definition of autism has been revamped with the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Accordingly, our concept of autism is evolving, which in turn affects the future of autism research and the development of interventions.

About the Commentators

Gerald D. Fischbach is chief scientist and fellow of the Simons Foundation.

Eric London is director of the Autism Treatment Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.

About the Speakers

Catherine Lord is the George Tarjan Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Education at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

She is a practicing clinical psychologist whose primary focus is autism and related disorders across the lifespan, from the toddler stage through adulthood. Her research and clinical work have involved the development of diagnostic instruments that describe individual profiles of skills and weaknesses and carrying out longitudinal studies from age 15 months up to 26 years with the goal of identifying protective and risk factors that influence milestones of progress over the years.

She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the American Association of Arts and Sciences.

Steven Hyman is director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and is Distinguished Service Professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard.

From 1996 to 2001, Hyman served as director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, where he emphasized investment in neuroscience and emerging genetic technologies and initiated a series of large practical clinical trials to inform practice. He is editor of the Annual Review of Neuroscience, president-elect of the Society for Neuroscience, founding president of the International Neuroethics Society and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies.

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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