Research we support
Investigating the cellular bases of autism
The Schumann and Amaral labs are examining differences in brain cells and their connections in autism.
Determining the cellular changes that underlie altered brain function and connectivity is critical to understanding autism. The Schumann and Amaral labs' approach sample brain cells in regions known to be functionally and developmentally abnormal in autism to produce estimates of cell number. The Schumann and Amaral labs' team of researchers has found a reduction in brain cell numbers in a region of the brain that is critically important for social processing. Their labs are now working to understand what alterations are present early on in development, and whether there are alterations in the connections between brain cells.
The Schumann and Amaral labs are investigating alterations in the immune and support cells of the brain in autism.
Several lines of evidence have suggested that some subjects with autism may have immune abnormalities. The Schumann and Amaral labs are investigating whether there are also abnormalities in the immune system of the brain that may impact brain cell function. Their team of researchers has found significant changes in the number and appearance of a type of immune cell, responsible for carrying out the brain's physical response to adverse events, in some patients with autism. The Schumann and Amaral labs are now working to understand how these differences relate to other changes in brain cells in autism, and how they play out over the course of development.
The Martínez-Cerdeño lab is investigating the contribution of distinct cortical cell types to the pathogenesis of autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is defined by a pattern of qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interaction, communication, and repetitive interest and behavior. In order to further understand autism, the Martínez-Cerdeño lab has relied on postmortem brain tissue to compare the developing and mature cerebral cortex of autistic and typically developing individuals. The lab investigates the contribution of distinct cortical cell types to the pathogenesis of autism, and searches for correlations between the pathophysiology present in brains of autistic subjects and their clinical history.
Disorders related to the Fragile-X gene
The Hagerman lab is investigating the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders related to the Fragile-X gene.
Hagerman’s group of researchers has discovered the original description of the neuropathology of Fragile-X Syndrome, which is considered to be linked with Fragile X-Associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS). They have successfully made this discovery by using post-mortem brain tissue samples housed in the MIND Institute tissue bank. The Hagerman’s lab has also discovered the first description of the protein composition of intranuclear inclusions, associated with FXTAS, and has made several more recent discoveries related to the molecular basis of the disorder.