Neuroscience and Society: Autism

When we’re trying to help people who have troubles due to autism spectrum disorders, one of the first challenges is definition: What does “autism” mean?

“Autism was and is still currently defined by behaviors,” Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon said, as researchers haven’t yet found solid biomarkers or other internal signals to identify it. “Whenever you read about autism, you might want to dig into what definitions they go into,” he said during a recent discussion at the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in Washington, DC.

Autism -Dawson - Oct2018Even definitions by behavior vary. For example, fellow presenter Daniel Geschwind said, problems with language used to be part of the diagnosis, but now doctors and other caregivers usually only count differences in social behavior and the presence of “repetitive-restrictive” behavior (like hand-flapping or always needing to do activities in the same order).

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Free Public Event on Autism

Autism and the Brain_Oct 2018.png
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. Continue reading

“I Was a Child” at the Rubin Museum

The topic of a recent Brainwave event called “I Was a Child” is one that we rely on every single day: the function of memory. Bruce Eric Kaplan (also known as BEK) has been a cartoonist for The New Yorker for more than twenty years, as well as a writer for shows including “Seinfeld” and HBO’s “Girls.” Joining him on stage was Therapeutic Cognitive Neuroscience Professor Barry Gordon, M.D., to discuss the role memory plays in keeping us bound to the past.

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Better Support Needed for Parents of Autistic Adults

Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon, M.D., is familiar with autism on both a personal and professional level. Gordon, a behavioral neurologist and cognitive neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins with interests in disorders of speech, language, and memory, is also father to a severely autistic 22-year old son who cannot speak.Gordon_Barry

“It was beyond irony when our son proved to be unable to speak and unable to learn,” he said at a July Capitol Hill briefing, hosted by AAAS through the support of the Dana Foundation in conjunction with Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). [See also our interview with him in 2012.]

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Autism and Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month as well as Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Last year, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon, M.D., director of cognitive neurology/neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins University, as well as Dana Alliance member Mahlon DeLong, M.D., a neurology professor at Emory University.

I e-mailed Dr. Gordon this week to get a quick update about autism research. He said there has been incremental progress in both the basic genetic studies and in some of the epidemiologic studies, such as a recent study suggesting a link between prenatal antidepressant use and autism.

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