Autism is a mysterious and puzzling disorder. In 1943, American child psychiatrist Leo Kanner first published a paper describing 11 children who were highly intelligent but displayed “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” He called this condition “early infantile autism.” Prior to that time, people with autism were simply called insane. Autism is now officially known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and, while there is a wide variation in the nature and severity of its signs, people with ASD typically have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. We now know that autism occurs in all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups and in individuals at all levels of intellectual abilities, but is far more frequent in males than in females. Autism spectrum disorder is believed to affect one in every 110 American children, and the causes of the disorder remain unknown. A number of theories have been debunked, including an old theory that autism was caused by bad mothers, whose chilly behavior toward their child led their youngsters to withdraw into a private world, and the theory that vaccines led to autism. This program will present the latest theories about the causes of autism, both genetic and nongenetic, and also give an overview of what are currently thought to be the best treatment options for both children and adults.
Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics, and Psychology and Neuroscience
Daniel Geschwind, MD, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics
Director, Center for Autism Research and Treatment
Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Chair, Human Genetics
University of California, Los Angeles
Janine LaSalle, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
School of Medicine Genome Center MIND Institute
University of California, Davis
Barry Gordon, MD, PhD
Therapeutic Cognitive Neuroscience Professor, and Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Science
Director, Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology Division Department of Neurology
The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
For more information on the Neuroscience and Society Series, please click here.