This month saw the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in Salt Lake City, Utah. The meeting is dedicated to a range of research streams, ranging from mouse models of the condition to clinical studies of how individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) can be best helped. As such, IMFAR provides a broad overview of our current understanding of ASC.
The three keynote lectures provided insight into the place of autism in society (by anthropologist Dr Richard Grinker), early interventions with children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (by Dr Sally Rogers), and combined pharmacological and behavioural interventions in autism (by Dr Jeremy Veenstra-Vander Weele).
Several members of the Department of Psychiatry also presented their work at the meeting. Professor Baron-Cohen of the ARC spoke in a panel session titled “Autism and Society: Taking Stock of the History and Meaning of Autism Research”. He discussed the preference of the Autism Research Centre to use the term Autism Spectrum Conditions, rather than Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Dori Floris, also from the ARC, presented her work on the link between lateralisation of motor networks and motor symptoms in ASC.
Professor Baron-Cohen also presented a poster on the lack of sex differences in the “Minds in the Eyes” task in a group of men and women with ASC.
Other posters by members of the department covered a systematic review of the Autism Quotient by Emily Ruzich, a meta-analysis of common genetic variants in ASC by Varun Warrier, the utility of the anogential distance as a biomarker for androgen activity by Alexa Pohl, atypical dynamics of binocular rivalry in ASC by Jan Freyberg, and atypical responses in ASC to a go-no-go task by Florina Uzefovsky. Dori Floris also presented a poster on structural lateralisation abnormalities in autism.
Varun Warrier, in the first year of his PhD at the ARC, remarked: “It was good to meet so many researchers working in so many different fields in autism. It was also refreshing to get varied perspectives on the current state of autism in society, and to interact with individuals on the spectrum interested in research. I also received great direct feedback on my work from leading autism geneticists at the conference.”