Interviews with Scientists

Dr. Joseph Buxbaum is the Director of the Seaver Autism Center. Dr. Buxbaum discusses the SHANK3 gene, which helps synapses to properly function. Around 1% of children with ASD have SHANK3 mutations, making it one of the most common single-gene causes of autism. Dr. Buxbaum also discusses Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF1), which is the second drug aimed at treating core symptoms of autism, and is currently being tested on humans.

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Dr. Kolevzon, Clinical Director of the Seaver Autism Center, develops new pharmacological treatments to target the core symptoms of autism. Dr. Kolevzon discusses his work with Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF1), which increases neural communication and may ameliorate issues of learning and memory in individuals with autism. Small trials of IGF1 have begun with children with SHANK3 deletion, a genetic condition held by ~1% of individuals with autism. If successful, Dr. Kolevzon and the Seaver Autism Center will conduct trials with the larger autism population.

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Rhonda Charles is a 2010 ASF Grant Winner and a PhD Student in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Ms. Charles' work focuses on the AVPR1A gene, which affects social behavior and anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. Her ASF- funded study puts the human AVPR1A gene into a mouse model, a key step that must occur before we can introduce pharmacological treatments for individuals with autism affected by AVPR1A gene mutations.

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Dr. Joseph Buxbaum is the Director of the Seaver Autism Center. Dr. Buxbaum discusses the SHANK3 gene, which helps synapses to properly function. Around 1% of children with ASD have SHANK3 mutations, making it one of the most common single-gene causes of autism. Dr. Buxbaum also discusses Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF1), which is the second drug aimed at treating core symptoms of autism, and is currently being tested on humans.

A small study by Dr. Eric Courchesne found that male children with autism had larger brain weights and 67% more prefrontal brain neurons than children without autism.

Dr. Eric Courchesne, keynote speaker at IMFAR 2011, describes the underlying brain biology of autism and shares new findings showing differences in brain structure in people with autism. These changes originate in the second trimester of prenatal life when there is a tremendous overproduction of brain cells in individuals with autism that create patches of functional abnormality. Dr. Courchesne describes how early intervention alters brain connections and structure, and discusses the "recovery genetics" of autism, including new understanding about why some kids recover from autism while other children continue to struggle.

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In part 2 of his interview, Dr. Mandell discusses his research on how to organize, finance and deliver services to enhance outcomes for children with autism. Dr. Mandell discusses his work in assessing public and private insurance companies, the impetus for the autism mandate in Pennsylvania, and how the mandate is affecting families.

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Dr. David Mandell of the Center for Autism Research (CAR) and the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) studies how to implement evidenced based programs in real life settings. His Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (STAR) program is being tested in Philadelphia public school classrooms, with much broader implications for children and adults alike.

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Earlier this week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) at the Academy of Natural Sciences announced the election ASF founding board member Dr. Paul Offit and distinguished autism researcher, Dr. Daniel H Geschwind. ASF’s Jonathan Carter spoke to Dr. Geschwind about his election:

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Dr. Edward Brodkin of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Center for Autism Research (CAR) is using mice models to study the sociability of children with autism....

Dr. Bob Schultz has built the Center for Autism Research from the ground up. Dr. Schultz explains how CAR seeks to understand what causes autism and how CAR serves the community of families affected by autism. In training the next generation of scientists...

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Dr. Timothy Roberts of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Center for Autism Research (CAR) is using MEG technology to measure the biological response to new medical treatments in children with autism. Eventually, he says, MEG will be used to determine which children with autism are most likely to respond to a given treatment. CHOP is participating in the ongoing arboclofen trials, sponsored by Seaside Therapeutics, for children with Fragile X and is using MEG technology as a noninvasive way to measure the biological changes in the brain that result from arboclofen intervention. Dr. Roberts also explains the value of imaging for developing new autism treatments and improving existing treatments.

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Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., is one of the nation’s leading child and adolescent psychiatrists. Dr. Koplewicz is the founder and director of the Child Mind Institute (CMI)—a non-profit, started in 2010, dedicated to improving the mental health of children. Dr. Koplewicz is a member of the Autism Science Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Koplewicz about the Child Mind Institute and psychiatric components of autism.

How do we improve the social involvement of children with ASD in schools? ASF-funded grantee Dr. Jill Locke trains school teachers to improve the social interaction of children with ASD in the classroom. With her ASF-funded research, Dr. Locke employs a model that she hopes will provide an effective and cost-efficient treatment for a wide-range of ASD social impairments.

Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. In 2007 he received the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, and in 2008 he received the NIH Pioneer Award for his work with induced pluripotent stem cells to study autism. Dr. Dolmetsch was a keynote speaker at IMFAR 2011. ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Dolmetsch about his research and his unique role as both a scientist and the parent of a child with autism.

Craig Powell, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern. Dr. Powell developed the first-ever animal model of autism, and he is the mentor of ASF 2011 post-doctoral grantee Haley Speed. ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Powell about his current research and the use of mouse models in the study of autism.

Could where your child looks affect how he or she learns? Dr. Elena Tenenbaum explains her ASF-funded research, which explores how children with ASD differ in attentional distribution. Dr. Tenenbaum's research will lead to more effective early behavioral interventions.

Dr. Haley Speed explains why we need mouse models in autism research and how her ASF-funded research with the Shank3 mouse will improve the lives of children with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and other forms of genetically-derived autism.

Dr. Haley Speed explains why we need mouse models in autism research and how her ASF-funded research with the Shank3 mouse will improve the lives of children with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and other forms of genetically-derived autism.

Did you know that Pivotal Response Training is a naturalistic intervention for autism that can be administered to children as young as 9 months of age? Jessica Bradshaw explains how her ASF-funded research helps infants increase their social engagement and interaction, helping these children to progress more quickly.

Scientists can make a mouse with Rett Syndrome (a form of autism), but did you know that scientists have discovered how to reverse Rett Syndrome in mice? Grantee Christie Buchovecky explains how her ASF-funded study will build on this discovery and could eventually allow us to reverse Rett Syndrome in humans.

Watch the interview between ASF Pre-Doctoral Grantee Christie Buchovecky and ASF President Alison Singer at IMFAR 2011.

Dr. Eric London is an ASF scientific advisory board member, NAAR co-founder, Director of the Autism Treatment Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, and Chief Science Advisor of the New York State Autism Consortium. In June 2011, Max Rolison, an intern at the Autism Science Foundation interviewed Dr. London on the importance of brain tissue research.

Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg is the Director of the Lab of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston University. She is also the newly elected president of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). In May 2011, ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Tager-Flusberg about her research and her INSAR presidency.

Dr. Vaccarino is the Harris Professor in the Child Study Center and the Director of the Developmental Neurobiology Laboratory (Vaccarino Lab) at the Child Study Center.

She and a group of collaborating investigators recently formed the interdepartmental Program in Neurodevelopment and Regeneration, which focuses on Cellular alterations in neuropsychiatric disorders and the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) during prenatal and postnatal stages of cerebral development.

Rhea Paul, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a Professor and Director of the Communication Disorders Section at the Yale Child Study Center.

Dr. Paul conducts research on communication in autism spectrum disorders, including research on early identification of ASD, auditory preferences and vocal development in infants and toddlers, pragmatic and prosodic skills in school-aged children with ASD, increasing speech in preverbal children and improving conversational skills for high-functioning individuals.

Dr. Lombroso is the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor in the Child Study Center and the Director of Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology.

Dr. Lambroso's lab studies how humans normally learn and how these processes are disrupted in various neuropsychiatric disorders. He is interested in a number of disorders including Autism, Tourette's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as drug addiction and Alzheimer's disease. His work focuses on a brain-specific protein tyrosine phosphatase called STEP and its role in regulating intracellular signaling.

Dr. Chawarska is a Associate Professor in the Child Study Center and the Director of the Toddler Developmental Disabilities Clinic. She received her doctoral degree from Yale University.

Dr. Chawarska is currently conducting studies on face scanning and recognition, attentional aspects of face processing, as well as perception of direct gaze and gaze-related intentional action in the first three year of life. By determining which components of gaze and face processing are impaired and which are preserved in infants and toddlers with ASD, Dr. Chawarska will help advance our appreciation of mechanisms underlying social abnormalities in the early stages of the disorder. This evolving understanding of the condition will be consequential for designing early screening and intervention methods.

Fred R. Volkmar, M.D. is Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology and Director of the Yale University Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the Chief of Child Psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT.

Dr. Volkmar was the primary author of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV autism and pervasive developmental disorders section. Dr. Volkmar's research focus is on mechanisms and treatment of autism and related disorders in individuals of all ages.

James McPartland is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Developmental Electrophysiology Laboratory at the Yale Child Study Center.

Dr. McPartland's program of research employs electroencephalography to investigate the integrity of social brain systems in children with social disabilities. He is particularly interested in the developmental nature of social deficits in autism and the role that experience plays in shaping brain function and behavior over time. His work has revealed anomalies in temporal processing of faces in people with autism at the most basic stages of perception. The objective of Dr. McPartland's program of research is to develop biologically-based tools for earlier identification of autism and for the objective assessment of response to intervention.

Dr. Sara Jane Webb is a Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and a Research Affiliate for the Center on Human Development and Disability.

In November of 2010, Emily Hotez, an intern at the Autism Science Foundation, interviewed Dr. Webb about her role at the CHDD and the critical scientific research currently being conducted on autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Rebecca Landa is the Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and the REACH research program at Kennedy Krieger Institute. She is also an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

On September 17, 2010 Emily Hotez, an intern at the Autism Science Foundation, interviewed Dr. Landa about her roles at CARD and REACH, and these programs contributions to the critical scientific research currently being conducted on autism spectrum disorders.

Alison Singer interviews Dr. David Mandell at the IMFAR conference.

Interview conducted at IMFAR 2011.

Alison Singer interviews Dr. Brian Freedman at IMFAR 2010

2010 Pre- Doctoral Grantee Rhonda Charles of Mount Sinai School of Medicine

2010 Pre- Doctoral Grantee Karen Burner from University of Washington Autism Center

Alison Singer interviews Dr. Joseph Buxbuam at IMFAR 2010

Alison Singer interviews Dr. Eric Courchesne & Dr. Lisa Eyler at IMFAR 2010.

Alison Singer interviews Dr. Connie Kasari at IMFAR 2010.

2010 Pre- Doctoral Grantee Sarah Hannigen of the University of Pittsburgh

2010 Pre- Doctoral Grantee Matthew Maenner of the University of Wisconsin, Madison

2010 Pre- Doctoral Grantee Sarita Austin of the Yale Child Study Center

Alison Singer interviews Dr. Jennifer Pinto-Martin at the IMFAR conference.