NEWS | October 29, 2012

Anthropological perspectives on autism the topic of the next MIND Institute lecture


R. Richard Grinker, professor of anthropology, human sciences and international affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., will discuss "Culture and Autism: Anthropological Perspectives on the U.S., Korea, and South Africa" during the next UC Davis MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series presentation.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the MIND Institute auditorium at 2825 50th St., Sacramento, Calif.

Grinker, an anthropologist and father of a child with autism, is the author of "Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism" (Basic Books), published in 2007. Based on evidence from the United States and abroad, including South Korea, South Africa, Peru and India, it presents the idea that there is no evidence for an autism epidemic. He instead argues that today's high rates of prevalence and diagnosis are evidence that scientists around the world are finally counting cases correctly.

In 2011, Grinker completed the first-ever epidemiological study of autism in South Korea. An ambitious six-year effort to gauge the rate of childhood autism in Goyang, a middle-class South Korean city, it screened about 38,500 children. It yielded an unexpectedly high figure of 2.6 percent of all children aged 7 to 12 in one district of the city, more than twice the rate of 1 percent that's usually reported in the developed world. Although that rate has been climbing rapidly in recent years, Grinker and his team said the findings did not mean that the numbers of children with autism were rising, but rather that the study was simply more comprehensive than previous ones.

An expert in ethnicity and nationalism, autism, cross-cultural psychiatry, sub-Saharan Africa and Korea, Grinker received his BA in anthropology from Grinnell College in Iowa and his MA and Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University. He has served on the faculties of Harvard University, Carleton College in Minnesota, and The George Washington University, and he has served as a senior Asian Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, D.C. In 2008, he received a KEN Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for "outstanding contribution to a better understanding of mental illness." His other books include "Houses in the Rainforest: Ethnicity and Inequality in Northeastern Zaire" (University of California Press) and "Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War" (St. Martin's Press).

Boston University School of Medicine Professor Helen Tager-Flusberg will discuss "On the Origins and Development of Language and Communication in Autism Spectrum Disorder" on Dec. 12.

Other Distinguished Lecturer Series speakers will include:

• Wendy Stone, director of the University of Washington Autism Center in Seattle, discussing "From Early Detection to Early Intervention: Bridging the Gap in Autism Services" on Jan. 9
• Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, giving a talk titled "Longitudinal Studies of Autism Spectrum Disorder" on Feb. 13
• Paul Patterson, the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, discussing "Gut-Brain-Immune Connections: Modeling an Environmental Risk Factor for Autism" on March 13

Additional series presentations will take place on April 10, May 8 and June 12.

All Distinguished Lecturer Series presentations are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. The MIND Institute Resource Center, specializing in information and resources relating to neurodevelopmental disorders and related conditions, is open one hour before and 30 minutes after each presentation.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at