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Conference to Explore the Latest Developments in Autism Research

April 25, 2007

Nearly a thousand scientists, parents and advocates from around the world will gather in Seattle May 3-5 to discuss the latest findings in autism research at the sixth International Meeting for Autism Research, sponsored by Autism Speaks. The meeting will focus on the search for potential causes of autism and better treatments.

A number of researchers will present their findings on a range of topics, including:

  • A drug treatment that appears to help some patients with autism reduce repetitive behaviors and improve social functioning;
  • Mirror neurons, which have been linked to a person's ability to feel empathy and to learn by seeing as well as doing, skills that are often limited or missing in people with autism;
  • New techniques for identifying infants at risk for autism;
  • The most up-to-date research results in the search for the genes that may be involved with autism;
  • Why individuals with autism can't pick up on visual cues in facial expressions that give context and meaning to the words they hear.

Three special presentations are also scheduled at the meeting. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), will discuss the implications of the landmark Combating Autism Act, which authorized nearly $1 billion in expanded autism research, prevention and treatment funding over the next five years. Allan Jones, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Sciences, will describe how the web-based Allen Brain Atlas can help improve understanding of the human brain and assist in answering key questions about brain disorders such as autism. And Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, will deliver a recorded address to the meeting that emphasizes the need for greater international collaboration on autism research.

The May 4 keynote address, “Language Learning and the 'Social Brain': Implications for Children with Autism,” delivered by Patricia Kuhl, will be introduced by Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr and Executive Vice President Peter Bell. The final day of the conference will begin with a keynote address “Tackling Genetic Heterogeneity in Autism: An Array of Approaches,” delivered by Daniel Geschwind, to be introduced by Cure Autism Now founders Jon Shestack (a member of the Autism Speaks board of directors) and Portia Iverson.

“As new funding and technologies infuse the field, there are many exciting findings that are bringing fresh perspectives to autism research and hope to families struggling with this challenging disorder,” said Geraldine Dawson, the co-chair of the conference and the director of the University of Washington's Autism Center.

Click here for conference details and registration information