Letter from the Director-April 2018

A number of research papers have come out in the past few months that help refine our thinking about the genetics (1) and neuroanatomy of autism (2). While impressive, they reflect findings from a relatively small number of brains. They do suggest, however, that fundamental findings about the causes of autism can be made if there is adequate postmortem tissue available to analyze. And, with these fundamental findings will come more targets for effective treatments of the disabilities of autism. The Simons Foundation, which funds Autism BrainNet, is committed to enhancing outreach efforts to the autism community. This is based on the assumption that relatively few families affected by autism actually know about Autism BrainNet and the importance of considering postmortem brain tissue donation. We would like to develop new and innovative techniques to reach the 3.5 million families in the US that are affected by autism. What strategies do you think would be most successful and valuable? We value your interest in our efforts and would welcome any suggestions that you might have for us about how to reach the broader autism community. Those can be sent to info@autismbrainnet.org or to me personally at dgamaral@ucdavis.edu. We look forward to your input!

  1. Gandal MJ, Haney JR, Parikshak NN, Leppa V, Ramaswami G, Hartl C, Schork AJ, Appadurai V, Buil A, Werge TM, Liu C, White KP, CommonMind C, Psych EC, i P-BWG, Horvath S, Geschwind DH. Shared molecular neuropathology across major psychiatric disorders parallels polygenic overlap. Science. 2018;359(6376):693-7. doi: 10.1126/science.aad6469. PubMed PMID: 29439242; PMCID: PMC5898828.
  2. Avino TA, Barger N, Vargas MV, Carlson EL, Amaral DG, Bauman MD, Schumann CM. Neuron numbers increase in the human amygdala from birth to adulthood, but not in autism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018;115(14):3710-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1801912115. PubMed PMID: 29559529; PMCID: PMC5889677.

With best wishes,

David G. Amaral, Ph.D.

Director, Autism BrainNet