Prevalence and trends in epidemiology of autism

  • Autism Research
Speaker Maureen Durkin, Ph.D., Dr.P.H.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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 25 March 2015, Maureen Durkin discussed trends in the prevalence of autism and explored some of the reasons underlying the recent rise in autism cases.

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

About the Lecture

Once considered an extremely rare childhood mental disorder, autism is now recognized as a common neurodevelopmental disability, affecting more than 1 percent of the population in the U.S. Reasons for the rise in prevalence are not fully understood, but they are likely associated with societal and cultural influences, and the expansion of the concept of autism to a spectrum disorder: autism spectrum disorder.

In this lecture, Maureen Durkin discussed trends in the prevalence of autism, focusing on the role of intellectual disability — both as a co-occurring condition with autism and in terms of using autism as a diagnostic substitute for intellectual disability. She also explored evidence of socioeconomic disparities in access to diagnostic and therapeutic services for autism, the cultural and financial barriers underlying these disparities, and the need to incorporate modern concepts of disability into the epidemiology of autism, placing emphasis not only on primary prevention of impairments but also on enhancement of functioning and social inclusion of people with the disorder.

About the Speaker

Maureen Durkin is an epidemiologist, professor of population health sciences and pediatrics, and Waisman Center investigator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. degrees in epidemiology from Columbia University. She conducts studies on the epidemiology of neurodevelopmental disabilities and is currently principal investigator of the Wisconsin site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

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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