On April 22, more than 200 interested participants convened at the campus of Vanderbilt University to discuss the role of the environment in increasing autism risk as well as its impact on the diversity of behavioral and medical symptoms in autism. Presenters included researchers both at Vanderbilt University as well as outside experts in the fields of toxicology, epidemiology, psychology, and molecular biology. The day started with presentations on the fundamentals of ASD, including highlights of its symptoms and behavioral characteristics, what is known about the genetics of ASD, and how those genes influence development of the nervous system. The session then concluded with a presentation of epidemiological methods. This included a special emphasis on how epidemiological research has informed scientists about potential exposures and how they may interact with genetic risk factors.
The second part of the day was more focused on potential environmental factors and how exposure to them may produce symptoms of ASD. The topics included metabolic dysfunction as a consequence of the environment, exposure to metals, and differing cell and animal models that can be used to predict gene x environment x timing interactions. Following the day's presentations, students and faculty were invited to participate in a poster session highlighting research at Vanderbilt University and the University of Miami, the two institutions which receive support from Marino Autism Research Institute, the sponsor of the day's events.
Full videos of the presentations, including visual aids, can be found on the following website: