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Autism Speaks Sponsored Meeting Report –

Wiring the Brain: From Genetic to Neuronal Networks
August 24, 2009

April 21-24, 2009
Adare, County Limerick, Ireland

Organizers: Kevin Mitchell, Aiden Corvin, Isabella Graef, Edward Hubbard, Franck Polleux

Research over the past five years has shown that one of the systems impacted in autism appears to be brain connectivity. The need now is to understand exactly what mechanisms govern brain connectivity, and how those mechanisms may become damaged in autism. Therefore, Autism Speaks joined several other organizations in sponsoring the "Wiring the Brain" meeting, which took place April 21-24, in Adare Manor, Co. Limerick, and which brought together world-class researchers in developmental neurobiology, psychiatry, neurology, human genetics, systems and cognitive neuroscience. The aim was to foster communication between these often separate disciplines. Discussions centered on the topics of understanding the mechanisms that underlie brain wiring, how variation of genes critical for neural development affects neuronal connectivity and behavior, and how such variation can contribute to disease.

About 150 international delegates heard the latest research across multiple fields and saw the truly exciting progress in finding the links from development to function; from genotype to phenotype; from animals to humans; and from brain to mind. Autism highlights included the Keynote lecture by Daniel Geschwind, U.C. Los Angeles on "Autism: from Genes to Brain," which described the recent identification of genetic variants that increase autism risk and how researchers are characterizing their effects in humans. Most importantly for this conference, many of these genes are involved in specifying how nerve cells connect to each other. The questions discussed across the course of the meeting included: how do these genes normally work? Will we expect to find that single mutations in such genes cause most cases of autism? How do defects in formation of connections between nerve cells affect the function of neuronal networks? How does compromised network activity early in life affect individuals as they progress through development? Finally, how does this result in the specific spectrum of symptoms associated with autism?

These questions, along with many others, served to bring autism to the forefront of a major international meeting of researchers solving issues in brain connectivity.

Read about the detailed scientific discussions from the entire meeting here.

See for more details.