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

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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

Closed Captioning and Transcripts Now Available for Videos and Podcasts!

At the Dana Foundation, we strive to make credible and current information about the brain available to as many people as possible. As part of that effort, we have recently taken steps to make our materials accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The majority of our YouTube videos are now closed captioned, including our Neuroscience and Society Series, public talks organized by AAAS and the Dana Foundation covering exciting topics in brain science such as architecture and the brain, truth and lying, and meditation. Our Cerebrum podcasts, which feature our Cerebrum editor in conversation with neuroscientists on topics such as the challenge of overcoming glioblastoma, how the human neocortex sets us apart, and Ketamine’s potential to effectively treat depression, now have accompanying transcripts.

Looking for one of our closed caption videos to start with? Check out our brand new Successful Aging and Your Brain On Demand video below to learn about how the brain works, brain diseases and disorders, and tips for leading a brain healthy lifestyle!

– Ali Chunovic

A Guide to Pursuing a Neuroscience Career

The Dana Foundation promotes a lot of resources designed for young students in hopes of inspiring them to want to learn more about the brain as they move up the ranks of grade school. But what if you’ve already been inspired and are now looking for practical ways to prepare for a neuroscience career? While there is certainly no “one way” to achieve this, we want to share a few resources that can help point you in the right direction.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) recently published an article on BrainFacts.org (a great resource in itself) with tips for students on how to jumpstart a career in neuroscience. Here are just a few points mentioned:

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William Safire Honored by Neuroethics Society

INS President Judy Illes, Steven Hyman, Dana Foundation Vice President Barbara Gill, Dana Foundation Chairman Ed Rover

Pulitzer Prize winner William Safire was widely credited with giving the word “neuroethics” its current meaning, defining it as “the examination of what is right and wrong, good and bad about the treatment of, perfection of, or unwelcome invasion of and worrisome manipulation of the human brain.” Safire was honored posthumously Friday morning with the Steven E. Hyman Award for Distinguished Service to the Field of Neuroethics at the annual meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) in Washington, D.C.

A larger than life character, Safire was probably best known for his New York Times contributions, first as Op-Ed page columnist from 1972 to 2005 and then his Sunday “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and was a senior White House speechwriter for President Nixon and author of 15 books. Author Eric Alterman, in his 1999 book Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy, called Safire an institution unto himself. “Few insiders doubt that William Safire is the most influential and respected pundit alive,” Alterman wrote. Continue reading

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