Neuroimmune interactions shaping social behavior in mouse models for neurodevelopmental disorders

  • Autism Research
Speaker Gloria B. Choi, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Date & Time


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

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

Autism Research

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

On October 30, 2019, Gloria Choi discussed her work using mouse models of maternal immune activation to study the role of maternal infection in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder.

Her talk is part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

About the Lecture

Viral infection during pregnancy correlates with increased frequency of neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. This phenomenon has been modeled in mice prenatally subjected to maternal immune activation (MIA).

In this lecture, Gloria Choi discussed her work using MIA mouse models to study the role of maternal infection in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. She and her colleagues have shown that the T helper 17 (Th17) cell/interleukin-17a (IL-17a) pathway is crucial in pregnant mice for the induction of both cortical and behavioral abnormalities observed in MIA-affected offspring. They further showed that MIA phenotypes in offspring also require defined maternal gut commensal bacteria with a propensity to induce Th17 cells. More recent data suggest that cortical abnormalities in MIA offspring serve as causative factors for the emergence of aberrant behavioral phenotypes.

About the Speaker

Gloria Choi is the Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Assistant Professor of Applied Biology at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed her Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology, where she worked in the laboratory of David Anderson. She then went on to Columbia University, where she was a post-doctoral scientist in the laboratory of Richard Axel.

Choi’s laboratory investigates the interaction between the immune system and the brain. In recent publications, she has shown how the maternal microbiome and immune activation can influence the neurodevelopment of offspring. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her contributions to the field, including the Peter Gruss Young Investigator award in 2018 and being named one of Cell magazine’s 40 under 40.

Past Lectures

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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.

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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.

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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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