Exploiting genetics to identify environmental risks for autism

  • Autism Research
Speaker Mark Zylka, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Date & Time


Location

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. The lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

 
On 22 February 2017, Mark Zylka described how candidate environmental risk factors for autism can be identified rationally, by pinpointing chemicals that interfere with the same molecular pathways that are affected in individuals with autism.

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

About the Lecture

Our inability to identify environmental threats to the brain early — before they cause disease — represents one of the major challenges of our time. This challenge is particularly relevant to autism, which affects 1 in 68 individuals. Heritability studies indicate that environmental factors contribute to autism risk.

In this lecture, Mark Zylka described how candidate environmental risk factors for autism can be identified rationally, by pinpointing chemicals that interfere with the same molecular pathways that are affected in individuals with autism. His research focuses on identifying environmental-use chemicals that target autism-linked molecular pathways, using environmental sampling data to assess the exposure threat to people, and validating risk potential in animal models.

About the Speaker

Mark Zylka is Director of the Neuroscience Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his B.S. in biochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard University. While at Harvard, he identified several of the core circadian-clock genes and determined how these genes contribute to circadian rhythms in mammals. As a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, he identified a large family of receptors that regulate pain and itch. Zylka’s lab focuses on pain research and studying genetic and environmental risks for autism.

Past Lectures

The predictive impairment hypothesis in autism: An empirical assessment

Pawan Sinha, Ph.D.Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dagmar Sternad, Ph.D.Professor, Departments of Biology, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Physics, Northeastern University

On December 12, 2018, Pawan Sinha and Dagmar Sternad will review a recently proposed hypothesis about the nature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that posits that the common traits of the disorder are manifestations of an individual’s difficulty in making predictions about cause and effect.

Rethinking autism and animal models: A systems perspective

André Fenton, Ph.D.Professor, Center for Neural Science, New York University

On November 28, 2018, André Fenton discussed work with mouse genetic models of fragile X syndrome (FXS) – the most common single-gene cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms – and focused on the utility of such models to evaluate hypotheses for understanding ASD. He evaluated distinct hypotheses by assessing synapse function and the action potential discharge of knowledge-expressing hippocampus “place cells” during behaviors that require varying cognitive effort.

Thinking differently about neurodevelopmental disorders and autism: Lumping vs. splitting

Evdokia Anagnostou, M.D.Assistant Director, Bloorview Research Institute
Child Neurologist and Senior Clinician Scientist, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto

On September 26, 2018, Evdokia Anagnostou discussed the challenge of rethinking classification systems and diagnostic labels for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders in light of recent findings from research and clinical studies.

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