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Autism Studies Presented at Mid-Atlantic Research Consortium Meeting
Date:5/8/2009

sorders the centerpiece of their meeting, said Yudkoff, acknowledging multifaceted research being pursued by the participating centers, using genetics, neurobiology and imaging studies to investigate the intricate puzzle of autism.

"The last 20 years of research have made it clear that autism is not a single disease, but a continuum of multiple disorders -- that's why we refer to the autism spectrum," said Michael Robinson, Ph.D., associate director of the IDDRC at Children's Hospital. "Researchers ultimately must subclassify patients based on genetics and behavior, then focus on subgroups of ASDs in animal models. Scientists will then translate those findings into therapies personalized to a child's specific subtype of autistic disorder."

Gene studies took the stage in a presentation by Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Genomics at CHOP. Hakonarson described the first study to find a common gene involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), research that attracted substantial press attention when it was published the day after the symposium. That study and another study by Hakonarson's team found two major gene pathways involved in autism, both of which play important roles in early brain development.

Several researchers presented the results of brain imaging studies. Lauren Kenworthy, Ph.D., of Children's National Medical Center, showed how brains respond when children are asked to complete tasks that involve memory and organization. Different brain regions were active in children with high-functioning autism, in contrast to brain activity in "neurotypical" children -- those without autism or other neurological disorders. Robert Schultz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism Research at CHOP, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging tools to study the "social brain," showing how children with ASDs and neurotypical children have contrasting patterns of brain activit
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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