Autism :: Autism conference to look at link to mercury poisoning, mirror neurons, genetics

More than 900 scientists, parents and activists from around the world who are focused on understanding the causes of autism and finding treatments for the developmental disorder will gather in Seattle May 3-5 to share the latest research findings at the sixth annual International Meeting for Autism Research.

The meeting at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers has registrants from every inhabited continent, reflecting growing international concern and cooperation in trying to unravel the puzzle of autism.

Presentations at the meeting range from results of a new examination of a possible link between mercury poisoning and autism to details about the ongoing search to identify the genes responsible for autism.

Other researchers will report new findings about:A drug treatment that appears to help some patients with autism to reduce repetitive behaviors and improve social functioning.Mirror neurons, which have been linked to a person?s ability to feel empathy and to learn by seeing as well as doing, traits that are often limited or missing in people with autism.New techniques for identifying infants at risk for autism.Why individuals with autism can?t pick up on visual clues in facial expressions that give context and meaning to the words they hear.

“As new funding and technologies infuse the field, there are many exciting findings that are bringing new perspectives to autism research and hope to families struggling with this challenging disorder,” said Geraldine Dawson, the co-chair of the conference and the director of the University of Washington?s Autism Center.

Three special presentations are scheduled at the meeting. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, will discuss the implications of the Combating Autism Act which authorized expanded autism research, prevention and treatment in 2006. Allan Jones, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Sciences will describe how the Web-based Allen Brain Atlas can help improve understanding of the human brain and assist in answering key questions about brain disorders such as autism. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, will deliver a recorded address to the meeting that emphasizes the need for greater international collaboration on autism research.

Autism is a spectrum of brain disorders that can severely impair a child?s social and communication skills, and people with autism generally have a restricted range of interests and activities. Autism is estimated to affect one in every 150 persons in the United States.

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Autism :: Autism conference to look at link to mercury poisoning, mirror neurons, genetics
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