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Calls to Action

Great Minds Convene at Autism Think Tank in NYC

October 10, 2007

Two-Day, Invitational Conference Looks at Neural Basis of the Disorder

Columbia University, the Simons Foundation, the New York Center for Autism, National Institute of Mental Health, Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now and the National Alliance for Autism Research recently partnered

on a two-day, invitational conference that brought established autism experts together with eminent neuroscientists. The aim of the conference was to inspire the world's leading scientists to contribute their knowledge, skills and ingenuity to the study of autism.

This think tank brought some of the most respected and acclaimed neuroscientists not currently doing autism research together with the leading experts in the field of autism," said Dr. Sophia Colamarino, Science Director for Cure Autism Now. "I was particularly encouraged by the large number of scientists attending who study the basic mechanisms of brain development. Brain development is a critical area of study if we are to understand the pathology of autism."

The conference was held February 25-26 at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York City. All attendees were hand-picked to participate in the forum. Lectures provided foundation for the current state and future possibilities of autism research, while round table discussions allowed scientists to query each other about specific ideas and theories. Each scientist was invited to bring one young investigator from their lab to vie for one of four $100,000 grants to begin research in the neurobiology of autism . These grants will be awarded by the conference organizers from Columbia University. Dr. Colamarino added, "Thanks to the Simons Foundation, this has provided an avenue, not to mention a fantastic incentive, for scientists to enter the autism field."

Among the many esteemed neuroscientists attending were: Eric Kandel, M.D. (Columbia University, Kavli Institute for Brain Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Thomas Jessell, Ph.D. (Columbia University), Huda Zoghbi, M.D. (Baylor College of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Gerald Fischbach, M.D. (Columbia University Medical Center), Pasko Rakic, M.D., Ph.D. (Yale University School of Medicine), Joshua Sanes, Ph.D. (Harvard University), Nathaniel Heintz, Ph.D. (The Rockefeller University), Paul Greengard, Ph.D. (The Rockefeller University), Karel Svoboda, Ph.D. (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), and Yuh-Nung Jan, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco). Notable autism experts in attendance included: David Amaral, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis), Eric Courchesne. Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego), Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. (University of Washington), Uta Firth, Ph.D. (Universitat des Saarlandes, Saarbrucken), and Ami Klin, Ph.D. (Yale University School of Medicine).