Exploiting genetics to identify environmental risks for autism

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


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

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

On the road to precision health: Brain-based biomarkers in autism spectrum disorder

Shafali Spurling Jeste, M.D.Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Neurology and Pediatrics, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
Director, Developmental Neurophysiology Lab, UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment

On 7 February 2018, Shafali Spurling Jeste provided a topical overview of the current state of research in autism biomarkers. She shared data from studies of autism biomarkers in three key areas: early risk prediction (studies of high-risk infants), heterogeneity within the autism spectrum and genetically defined subgroups within autism. Finally, she discussed the challenges around clinical trial design and development and considered how more objective measures of brain function can improve clinical trials.

Arousal, emotion regulation and challenging behaviors: Insights from the Autism Inpatient Collection

Matthew Siegel, M.D.Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Tufts University
Vice President, Medical Affairs, Developmental Disorders Service, Maine Behavioral Healthcare

On 24 January 2018, Matthew Siegel drew upon a new resource, the Autism Inpatient Collection data set, to offer preliminary insights into the relationships between physiologic arousal, emotion dysregulation and the occurrence of challenging behaviors. Such behaviors may represent an attempt to modulate physiologic arousal in minimally verbal individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Autism genetics: Searching for coherence

Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D.Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

On 28 November 2017, Daniel Geschwind discussed his group’s use of RNA sequencing, chromatin structure and gene networks to help develop an understanding of potential convergent mechanisms in autism spectrum disorders.

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